Taylor Plans Meeting On Gulfport VA Center

U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor says he will meet with University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi about a plan to allow USM to operate health care programs at the Gulfport Veterans Administration Hospital.

Taylor, D-Miss., said the meeting will take place next week in Washington.

"We're going to start with the long-term goal - 'This is what we want to see at the end of the day' - and also ask for some short-term things, like, could they designate a site where, if funds could be found, that we could actually put a teaching facility on site as soon as we can,'' Taylor told the Hattiesburg American.

Under Taylor's plan, USM would offer additional nursing and health care programs to be taught at the VA and allow nursing students to work with VA patients.

Taylor proposed the idea last year after the VA announced it was considering merging the Gulfport facility with the Biloxi VA Hospital. Plans for the merger were announced in May.

"My hunch is, since every building at the VA is already occupied, that we probably have to come up with some additional space to start educating people but that's really Dr. Thames' call,'' Taylor said.

If additional care can be provided to veterans as a result of the project, Taylor said he believes the VA might step in to help fund it.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)