The potential site of a state-run skilled nursing facility for veterans has been a major point of contention in the Wyoming Legislature over the last few months. In the choice between Casper and Buffalo, lawmakers have repeatedly wavered. And both communities have been caught up in the competition.
Last week, it seemed the Senate had settled on Casper. But a vote on Tuesday amended the recommendation to Buffalo.
Logically, the decision of where to locate a skilled nursing facility for veterans should be where veterans would receive the best care. However, the decision to build the facility in Buffalo seems motivated by the potential economic development opportunity it could provide for the community. This makes no sense.
Buffalo is a desirable community with much to recommend it. And it is the current home to the veterans assisted living facility. But according to medical professionals in the community, Buffalo now struggles to employ enough CNAs in what nursing facilities the town already has. The new facility would strain their pool of nurses, nursing assistants, therapists and other medical professionals needed to operate a skilled nursing facility well.
The reality is that Casper’s resources go beyond offering the trained and skilled personnel needed to staff this facility, which would be located near Wyoming Medical Center.
The Level II Trauma ER, stroke center, heart and telehealth facilities located in Wyoming’s largest hospital are likely to be very necessary assets to the veterans’ nursing facility. The comprehensive services offered at WMC will be necessary to give veterans the care they expect and deserve. During a stroke, the saying goes, time is brain. The proposed location in Casper would be mere minutes away from the hospital where lifesaving measures are readily available. It’s hard to imagine a location that would be better for veterans. Locating the facility in Buffalo, far from certain specialized medical services, may have unintended consequences.
This project should not be about our checkbook. It should be about what is best for the veterans it will serve. We urge lawmakers to listen to the many medical professionals, both from Casper and Buffalo, who are advising them to locate the veterans’ skilled nursing facility where skilled staff will be more readily available and closer to necessary services.
The veterans of Wyoming would be best served if the skilled nursing facility were located in Casper. And service to veterans should be the utmost priority.