A group of veterans and supporters are focusing their efforts on building a veterans hospital in Ogdensburg, but administrators at Massena Memorial Hospital say they already have the makings for a regional Veterans Administration medical center.
Operation Veterans has been trying to find ways to bring medical services closer to veterans since they formed in 2011. At a meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Tuesday, they will propose the Pritchard Building at the St. Lawrence County Psychiatric Center as a possible site for a the hospital.
But instead of duplicating services and funding a new medical center in Ogdensburg, Massena Memorial Hospital Senior Director of Ancillary Services Mark P. Brouillette says the hospital is well-positioned and interested in expanding its clinic to offer many of the services provided by VA medical centers in Syracuse and Albany.
Massenas VA Outpatient Clinic, which was recently renovated, occupies 2,900 square feet of space in the third wing of the hospital.
Through a reimbursement program with the Syracuse VA Medical Center, the hospital has steadily added services for veterans throughout the years, Massena Memorial spokeswoman Tina R. Corcoran said. The clinic offers primary care services and examinations such as mammograms, x-rays and immunizations.
The clinic now receives over 1,000 visits every month for patients seeking primary and mental health care, Mr. Brouillette said Friday.
Mr. Brouillette said he invites members of Operation Veterans to meet with the hospitals advisory board to discuss ways to improve medical services for veterans.
However, Joseph M. Cosentino, a Navy veteran and member of Operation Veterans, said that the clinics services are minimal and patients still have to travel to Albany or Syracuse for major medical services and operations.
He said the approximately 50,000 veterans in St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties cant wait for those services to become available in Massena.
Our main objective is to get more services for veterans that need it, Mr. Cosentino said.
Mr. Cosentino said he hopes the state will fund a feasibility study which will determine how much the project would cost and whether state or federal funding is available.
If we can get the governor and veterans affairs to conduct a feasibility study, that will give us an idea if it is feasible or not, he said. If we cant get it done there, we may have to go with them [Massena Memorial Hospital].