McGovern registers opposition to Leeds medical center closure with VA chief

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, expresses his opposition to the possible closure of the VA hospital in Leeds during a May 6 call with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough. CONTRIBUTED/McGOVERN’S OFFICE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/15/2022 1:17:52 PM
Modified: 5/15/2022 1:16:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern expressed his opposition to the possible closure of the VA hospital in Leeds during a recent call with Denis McDonough, the U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs.

McGovern’s office said the call on May 6, details of which were publicly released this week, was “productive” and that the secretary “thanked Chairman McGovern for his advocacy and pledged to work with him moving forward.”

McGovern, D-Worcester, is chair of the House Rules Committee.

The federal Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission made an initial recommendation in March to close the Central Western Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Medical Center due in part to $121 million worth of building and design deficiencies, plus $7.5 million in annual operations and maintenance costs.

The congressman pointed out that more than $200 million has been invested in completed, ongoing and planned renovations in recent years, which he said was a factor that the commission should have considered. In a readout of the call, McGovern’s office said the plan was based on incomplete data.

“Secretary McDonough said he recognizes the serious issues with the incomplete data used to make the recommendation, and assured Chairman McGovern that steps are being taken to ensure that (the commission) will have up-to-date and accurate information before making its final recommendation to the President,” McGovern’s office said.

With the closure of the facility, inpatient services would be relocated to Newington, Connecticut, about an hour south of Leeds. Outpatient services would be moved to “a new site in the vicinity of Springfield,” according to the commission’s report.

A final decision on the plan will be made by President Joe Biden after a lengthy public process.

On April 20, McGovern and other elected leaders held a listening session about the closure plan at the VFW Post 8006 in Florence. During the call, McGovern provided McDonough with a transcript of the comments made by veterans, caregivers, VA staff and others.

“The Chairman also said that he would do everything in his power to make sure that this recommendation does not move forward, and that he would be providing updates to his constituents so they know that their voices are being heard,” his office said.

McGovern shared “the anxiety and distress that this announcement has caused veterans and their loved ones across the region, and reiterated that many veterans have told him that they would simply stop seeking treatment if they were required to drive to another state to receive the veteran-specific care they have come to rely on in Leeds,” according to his office.

According to the readout, McDonough said that he takes veterans’ concerns seriously and does not want to “privatize the VA.”

Brian Steele can be reached at


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