Veteran care in Oklahoma could see major improvements after President Trump passed his 2020 budget this week. The President’s budget includes money for a new VA hospital in Tulsa. The question now is - what does that mean for the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Hospital in Muskogee?
For years, veterans in Muskogee tell News On 6 that they’ve known it as the “light on the hill” for decades. It is only one of two veteran hospitals in the entire state of Oklahoma and has been considered the main hub for veteran care.
Now with the possibility of Tulsa having a new hospital, questions have surrounded the Muskogee location about its future.
“We don’t want to look at it as an ‘either, or.’ It’s an ‘and.’ We are going to be a two-campus facility,” said Hospital spokeswoman Nita McClellan.
McClellan said there have been concerns over where would local veterans go, or what will happen to jobs. She said Muskogee will still provide primary care as well as having new services. McClellan added the Muskogee campus will move towards being a behavioral health facility.
"We may be looking at a long term care facility and a community living center so there will be a lot of opportunities for jobs here in Muskogee as well,” said McClellan.
City of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the Tulsa hospital will be located downtown and will be a large in-patient and rehab facility.
“It’s going to deliver great service for our veterans in a city that really prides itself on being one of the best places in the whole country for veterans,” Bynum said in an interview with News On 6.
Dr. Moncarm Fouche, the deputy Chief of Staff for the Muskogee VA Hospital, said most patients in their healthcare system are from the Tulsa area, and a Tulsa location means more patients and better care.
“I think this is really exciting news; the fact that 80 percent of veterans that we serve are in the Tulsa area really offers us the opportunity to expand our services,” said Dr. Fouche.
Mayor Bynum also told News On 6 the new Tulsa campus will bring more physicians and specialists to Tulsa as well as Muskogee.
“We need more primary care physicians here in Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma, and this will create a facility that gets more people here and get them to practice here,” Bynum explained.
Marcus Webb is the hospital’s congressional liaison. He worked with Senator Inhoff and other lawmakers. Webb said Washington is not forgetting Muskogee, but re-purposing it.
“Since this conversation started it's been a ‘both and’ conversation, and we want people to know Muskogee isn’t going anywhere," said Webb.
Webb said Congress must pass the president’s budget for construction to start on the Tulsa hospital. Once it’s finished, plans for Muskogee can move forward.