JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A group of veterans are seeking legal action against Jackson’s Veterans Hospital after the G.V. Sonny Montgomery Hospital decided to close its dialysis treatment center.
The lawsuit accuses the VA Hospital of violating policy. Fifty people have signed a petition to prevent the closure of the dialysis treatment center. Some veterans said it was a decision they weren’t given enough notice about, and it could put their lives in jeopardy.
“Me remaining at the VA is the best chance I have to continue my life’s existence,” said veteran Clarence Hopkins. He has been receiving dialysis treatment at the VA Hospital for about a decade.
“From June 8, 2011, to the current time, and they made us aware that they were going to close this dialysis unit through a letter form in March of 2021,” said Hopkins.
The letter stated that all patients receiving dialysis treatment at the VA Hospital would be transitioned to a community dialysis center by May 15, which was a 60 days notice.
“We spend three days a week receiving dialysis, so really a 60 day notice is really about 30 days because of the fact we’re receiving dialysis three days a week. That’s one of the reasons why this transition should be postponed because there’s not enough reasonable time for that to occur,” said Jerry Brown, who is also a veteran.
The letter also stated that someone will assist each patient personally with the transition of care. However, the veterans said that’s not the case.
“They’re not giving us assistance because they themselves don’t know what to do right now. They don’t even have a contract with these facilities, but yet, they want us to go to these facilities and establish a contract,” said Brown.
“Nobody ever came and talk to us at all. The first time I heard from my doctor was the week of April 9, 2021. He stated to me, ‘Mr. Hopkins you need to find an outside facility to take the dialysis in.’ My response was, ‘Are you all going to put us out?’ He said the unit will be closed on May 15th,” stated Hopkins.
According to the lawsuit, that’s a violation of the VA’s own guidelines. The handbook stated that local VA resources for dialysis treatments should be considered first.
12 News reached out to the hospital for an in-person interview. Officials there declined, but they sent a statement.
“The VA Medical Center’s decision was made due to an aging infrastructure and the requirement to provide high quality care to our patients,” said a VA spokesperson.
“What they’re saying about the infrastructure is on paper because it’s not real. For some reason, they want it closed. They just want it closed the reason they’re using to close it is not true,” said Clarence Blackmon, a veteran.
On March 20, 2020, Congressman Bennie Thompson’s office sent a later to VA Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz requesting bill language to support the funding for outpatient dialysis center care.
On March 25, 2021, Thompson’s office sent a letter expressing concerns about the closure and requesting a copy of the directive from the national office to close the dialysis unit.
Neither request has been honored at this time.