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A Plea to Retain VA Cardiac Unit

March 15, 1987

For a city the size of Long Beach, with its large concentration of veterans, our disabled veterans chapter thinks it is outrageous to close the cardiac unit at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital.

Your readers should know that:

Contrary to the published misleading figures, recent surgical results at the Long Beach VA have been excellent. Since the new heart surgery team started operating one year ago, the mortality rate has been better than the published national VA average. It is also better than the published figures for the hospital patients would be referred to should the Long Beach VA program close.

Heart surgery is a common operation that should be considered basic care and is performed at most small community hospitals in the area. It would be surprising that the Long Beach VA, one of the three largest VA hospitals in the country, should be without this basic care. As this is a growing community, this will be even more important in the future.

If the heart surgery program at the Long Beach VA should close, patients would be referred to either West Los Angeles VA or San Diego VA hospitals for heart surgery. As these hospitals are already crowded, the extra patients they would get from the Long Beach area would likely result in a long waiting list for surgery. This may cause more than simply just inconvenience; patients in the past have had serious heart problems while awaiting their turn for surgery.

Closing the cardiothoracic surgery program at the Long Beach VA Hospital would do more than just stop heart surgery. Other programs would have to close as well. For example, coronary angioplasty is a new technique performed by cardiologists in which narrowed arteries in the heart are opened up by a balloon, thereby preventing the need for surgery. If the heart surgery program is closed, all angioplasties would also have to be stopped.

The Long Beach VA Medical Center is a major teaching hospital of the University of California. If the heart surgery program closes, it is possible that many of the top doctors will leave, and it may be difficult to recruit good replacements for them.

--MELVIN ABRAMOVITZ

Disabled American Veterans

Lakewood Chapter No. 19

Long Beach

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