A Knoxville lawmaker has asked the Department of Veteran Affairs to open a VA hospital in the city.
The VA has been under fire for long wait times and inefficient management. A recent audit found that VA hospitals in Murfreesboro and Johnson City were among the worst in the country for getting appointments for veterans. There is no VA hospital in Knoxville, but there are several outpatient facilities in the city and surrounding counties.
Officials at Mountain Home Health Care System placed part of the blame for their lengthy wait times on patients coming from the Knoxville area.
On Wednesday, Congressman John J. Duncan sent a letter to acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson requesting that the VA look into the possibility of opening an inpatient facility in Knoxville.
He wrote, "As you may be aware, many people in my District have to go to Johnson City or Nashville to receive treatment, which is quite far to travel for many elderly or disabled Veterans.
The hospital that serves most East Tennessee Veterans logged the ninth-longest wait times nationwide for new patients seeking specialty care according to a VA Department audit released on June 9th."
Duncan suggested that the VA could partner with Tennova to convert the former St. Mary's hospital to a VA hospital. Tennova has plans to close Physician's Regional, located near downtown Knoxville, and open a new hospital in West Knoxville off Middlebrook Pike.
He said, "I have recently been contacted by Brad Anders, Chairman of the Knox County Commission, along with many others in the Knoxville area who also believe that this facility would be of tremendous help to Veterans in East Tennessee."
He closed the letter with, "I urge you to seriously consider this valuable facility as you make future decisions on VA hospitals."