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Health, Science & Environment

Chillicothe VA to remain open

Building 31 at the Chillicothe VA is home to the facility's urgent care as the wellness and recovery center.
Terry Dowdy
/
Submitted Photo
Building 31 at the Chillicothe VA is home to the facility's urgent care as the wellness and recovery center.

UPDATED JUNE 28, 2022 AT 3:45 PM EST.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs Medical Center that had been up for possible closure will remain open.

A statement from Brown said he and other senators have decided to end the work of the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR), which had been studying which VA hospitals should remain open and which should be closed to better position resources.

“As Senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans. We believe the recommendations put forth to the AIR Commission are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage, which is why we are announcing that this process does not have our support and will not move forward,” the statement said.

An earlier report from the committee studying VA facilities said the Chillicothe hospital is not optimally located and would see a sharp drop in the number of beds needed. Without the Chillicothe facility, veterans seeking VA care would have had to travel to facilities in Dayton, Cincinnati or Columbus.

Employees and veterans served at the Chillicothe VA embraced the news that it will remain open. Jessica Fee is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1631 which represents VA workers in Chillicothe. She said she was surprised by the decision.

“It's like a huge weight has been lifted off Southern Ohio,” Fee said. “I tell you, we couldn’t be happier with it to be honest.”

Fee said employees and veterans who receive medical services at the Chillicothe facility all worried about the future. "It took a lot of people,” said Fee. “It took a lot of veterans standing up and fighting. It took our senators Portman and Brown coming together and just saying it was a no-go. It was a no starter."

Fee said the report from a committee studying VA facilities did not understand the unique situation of Chillicothe. "It was looked at from a distance,” Fee said. “It wasn't anyone who understood our geographical location."

The Chillicothe VA has been a familiar landmark on State Route 104 just outside the city for nearly 100 years. It was once the home to Camp Sherman, a World War I military installation. The health facility serves veterans from 17 counties in Ohio and West Virginia. About 1,000 union members work at the Chillicothe VA.

The VA now serves around 20,000 people every year. The AIR Commission's report had predicted patient counts at the facility will drop by 15% by the end of the decade.

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Health, Science & Environment ChillicotheVA Hospital
Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.
Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.