MALONE - Wednesday would have been the last day the Malone Veterans Affairs Clinic would have serviced local veterans, but it has been granted yet another extension — making this the fourth extension since its original closure date on Aug. 31, 2013.
The clinic is set now to close at the end of May, according to Bonnie Stewart, deputy director of the Franklin County Veterans Service Agency. Until then, were here, Stewart said, adding that the uncertainty is inconvenient to the veterans.
However, she noted that she and the vets are thrilled to death about the extension.
Ms. Stewart said she and her office know of the extensions when they are notified by employees of the Malone clinic.
Ms. Stewart also noted that Stratton VA Medical Center Director Linda Weiss doesnt know of the extensions until she is directly contacted.
We would love this clinic to stay open, Ms. Stewart said, noting U.S. Rep. Bill Owens has been fighting to keep it open.
She is hopeful that the person who takes his place will continue the fight or come up with an idea other than just closing it.
Even if it was open just a couple days a week, Ms. Stewart said, adding, we still have vets enrolling. They still want to use it until they cant anymore.
Its been rumored that the extensions are due to not having proper authorization from Washington to close the clinic.
Ms. Stewart said shes also heard the rumors, but had no evidence to verify or deny them.
Stratton VA Public Affairs Officer Peter Potter said the reason for the extensions is because all the information and data is still under review by Veterans Affairs officials in Washington, D.C.
He noted that it is not because there hasnt been proper authorization.
Mr. Potter also noted that media sources as well as the veterans who currently seek medical services through the Malone VA Clinic would receive adequate notice before it actually closes.
The clinic was originally scheduled to close in August, but was granted an extension until February after Owens intervened with the Veterans Administration.
Close to its February closing date, the clinic received another extension until March 31.
The March date was then extended to the end of April. It is now set to close at the end of May.
If the Malone clinic closes, local veterans will have to travel to Massena, Saranac Lake or Plattsburgh to receive treatment. All medical records will be transferred to one of the three closest clinics, depending on what the veteran prefers.
Mr. Owens had sent Ms. Weiss a letter in early February citing concerns that some veterans who transferred from the Malone clinic to ones in Plattsburgh and Massena were being placed on waiting lists to receive care. If the Malone clinic were to close, hundreds more would be forced to join them, he said.
The Malone clinic has been open since 1999. It was first located at the Alice Hyde Medical Center; it is now in the Cedar Commons plaza on U.S. Route 11.
Malones clinic is considered the third most expensive clinic in the nation. The average cost of care per veteran nationwide is $4,000 per year, but at the Malone clinic the figure skyrockets to $11,000.
Mr. Potter was previously quoted saying that closing the Malone clinic would save $700,000 a year.
That money could be used to increase services such as telemedicine, telehealth and programs such as Home Based Primary Care at the other three nearby facilities, he said.