Dear Veterans and Community,
As the daughter of a Kansas veteran, I would like to inform veterans, their family and friends and the rest of the community of some proposed changes that I believe will negatively impact veterans who utilize services at the Topeka Veteran Affairs Medical Center and what we can do to stop it.
Recently, Anthony Rudy Klopfer, Director of the Eastern Kansas VA System, which includes both the Topeka and Leavenworth campuses, communicated with KSNT news about his proposal of changes to the Eastern Kansas VA System. This consists of consolidating services to Leavenworth and downsizing the Topeka VA Medical Center. These changes are supposed to benefit Kansas veterans. He states the changes better meet the needs of veterans by reaching out and providing more services. You can view his brief outline video here (VA Eastern Kansas 2021 Strategic Plan-Video 2-Goals, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p17uFDPMaHM on YouTube.
On November 25, 2019, KSNT reported the Topeka VA having the best patient satisfaction rate of any VA in the country. Currently, approximately 65% of the 35,000 veterans of the Eastern Kansas VA System use services at the Topeka VA. This leaves the remaining approximate 35% of Eastern Kansas veterans using services at the Leavenworth VA. Topeka has a population of ~126,000 while Leavenworth has a population of ~36,000 and is also a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which already has a large VA. The Leavenworth VA is only 36 miles from the KC VA. The Kansas City VA includes an Emergency Department, ICU, and Surgery Services, has more specialists available, and is able to see a wide complexity of patients. If the Topeka VA is downsized, veterans would have to travel either an additional 63 miles to Leavenworth or 72 miles to the KC VA for care.
Despite these facts, Director Klopfer plans to consolidate and move many resources and services from the Topeka VA to the Leavenworth VA. What benefit is there to Kansas veterans for consolidating and moving services from Topeka to the NE corner of KS, which already has these services through the KC VA? This consolidation would force all the veterans who utilize the Topeka VA to travel even further for their services.
The proposal also discusses closing down the Topeka VA Emergency Department, which is currently open 24/7, and replacing it with an Urgent Care that will not be open 24/7 and will not accept ambulances. Instead, it will be a walk-in clinic, open M-F 8am-8pm and 8am-4:30pm on weekends. For any medical emergency in the future, a veteran will have to drive to the Leavenworth, KC or Wichita VA’s or downtown Topeka to Stormont Vail or St Francis. Additionally, the proposal also discusses consolidating the Topeka VA ICU and General Surgery to Leavenworth.
At one time, the Topeka VA had the best PTSD Program in the country. That program has recently been closed. In the proposal, there is consideration for not reopening this program. In the video mentioned above, Director Klopfer discussed the possibility of keeping the Fresh Start Program at Topeka, moving it to the Leavenworth VA or closing it down completely. The proposal also discusses improving services and veteran care at the CBOCs by consolidating all of the Southeast Kansas CBOCs into one clinic. At this time, the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Emporia has already been closed.
When the consolidation is complete, there will be 2 ICU’s, 2 Surgical Centers and 2 Emergency Departments in close proximity in the northeast corner of the state (Leavenworth and KC). This leaves the veterans in the greater Topeka area, including those from Sabetha to Emporia, Lawrence to Salina, and the surrounding areas that currently utilize the Topeka VA, without an Emergency Department, General Surgery and ICU, and possibly will lose the Fresh Start Program and PTSD Program, as well. All of these services will no longer be offered through the Topeka VA. If these changes occur, those services will be lost permanently.
Director Klopfer wants to take away these services from the Topeka VA, that veterans in both Topeka and rural areas utilize. If services were increased at the Topeka VA vs the Leavenworth VA, it would benefit a higher number of veterans in the state of Kansas. In the video, Director Klopfer states: “I’ll tell you why we really need this. Because if we don’t, someone else will come here and say what Eastern Kansas is going to be like.” We believe services should stay where the veterans need them the most.
We still have a chance for our voices to be heard but we need your help. It is urgent that everyone: veterans, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and local businesses consider signing and sharing this petition. If you would like to know more ways to help, please consider either writing, emailing and/or calling the Kansas Senators and Congressman plus Kansas VA officials and inform them of how important the Topeka Veteran Affairs Medical Center is for Kansas Veterans. Please help us keep these life-saving services, that Kansas Veterans have earned and deserve, at the Topeka VA.