02.09.16

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES OVER $6.9 MILLION IN FED FUNDING, NEEDED FOR ‘PHASE TWO’ DEVELOPMENT OF VA OUTPATIENT SURGERY FACILITY IN ROCHESTER, OFFICIALLY INCLUDED IN THE PRESIDENT’S FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST – SCHUMER VOWS TO CONTINUE FIGHTING TO ENSURE FULL FUNDING IS INCLUDED IN FINAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL THIS YEAR

VA Ambulatory Outpatient Surgery Services Are Currently Only Provided At VA Facilities In Buffalo, Syracuse, And Albany, But Not In The Rochester-Finger Lakes Area, Which Is Home To 68,936 Veterans

Schumer Previously Pushed VA to Move Forward With Plans To Provide Funding For 2nd Phase of Construction For New, Upcoming 84,000 Sq Ft VA Outpatient Surgery Clinic in Rochester

Schumer: Rochester-Area Veterans Need & Deserve This Increased Access To Care  

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the just-released President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 includes $6.901 million in funding for the outpatient surgical center as a Phase II development that will complement the new 84,000 square foot VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) that the VA intends to open in Monroe County to replace the outdated current VA Clinic on Westfall Road. In October, Schumer joined veterans at the Veteran Outreach Center in Rochester to announce his push for the VA to approve a Phase II development to locate a new outpatient ambulatory surgical clinic in Monroe County.  Two months later in December, Schumer secured a commitment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that it would include this new outpatient clinic in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. Schumer said today’s inclusion in the Presidents’ Budget is another critical step in a process that will expand the availability of convenient, high-quality medical care for Rochester area veterans, who are sometimes required to travel up to 70 miles for treatment.

“Our veterans bravely protected the freedoms we cherish while serving our country, and it is up to us to make sure they have all the high-quality healthcare services they need when they return home. This new outpatient surgery center in Rochester will provide our veterans with access to this care – and funding in the President’s Budget means we are near the finish line to begin the second phase of construction,” saidSchumer. “We need to make sure this project can continue moving forward without delay – so I will fight tooth and nail to make sure this funding is included in the final appropriations bill for 2017.”

Schumer explained that the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region is home to approximately 68,936 veterans, with 43,341 – nearly two thirds – living Monroe County. However, since the nearest VA outpatient surgery facilities are in Buffalo, Syracuse, or Albany, veterans enrolled in VA health care living in the Rochester region are required to travel to other VA clinics in order to access outpatient surgery services, or visit a local non-VA provider if and when available. For this reason, Schumer said this clinic is desperately needed and he will continue fighting to ensure these funds are included in the final FY17 appropriations bill.

Schumer said in October when he joined area veterans at Rochester’s Veterans Outreach Center that the VA is currently moving forward to create a new 84,000 square foot Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Monroe County. This would replace the existing 49,000 VA Clinic on Westfall Road in Rochester. Unfortunately, earlier in the year, the VA said a new ambulatory surgery facility would not be included. As a result, in October 2015, Schumer urged the VA to include this critical outpatient facility in a second phase of construction of the new outpatient center, allowing construction on the initial facility to move forward and these critical services to be brought to the Rochester area. In December 2015, Schumer secured a commitment from the VA as they agreed to include funding for the second phase of the ambulatory outpatient surgery center as part of their FY17 budget request.

Currently, in Monroe County, the VA has leased 49,000 square feet for its outpatient clinic, which serves as the main clinic in the Monroe County area and where veterans who have VA insurance can go to receive primary care and visit specialists. At this facility, there are also dental services, a blood testing lab, a pharmacy and other related services. The VA also leases 14,000 square feet of space in the area, where two of their smaller satellite facilities house behavior and mental health services, programs for the area’s homeless veterans and a rehab treatment center, along with eye care and podiatry services. The Monroe County clinic falls under the “larger” Canandaigua VA Medical Campus and, together, they serve all of the VA patients in the Rochester Finger Lakes Region. However, in recent years, it has become clear that more space is needed to house these services. 

The $6.901 million included in the VA’s proposed FY17 budget released today would enable the VA to lease a new, approximately 55,431 net usable square foot (NUSF) Outpatient Clinic in Rochester, NY, including 400 parking spaces. The new lease would replace and consolidate two existing approximately 14,000 sq ft clinical leases currently located in three separate buildings in the Rochester area into one lease in one building, increasing operational efficiencies and improving the overall delivery of care. The new facility would enhance VA outpatient services by closing space and utilization gaps identified in the Strategic Capital Investment Planning (SCIP) process. This project would allow VA to consolidate and enhance the Mental Health, Specialty Care, and Surgical services it currently provides in the two existing leases, and it would allow for the offering of new Outpatient Ambulatory Surgery, Eye Clinic, and Laboratory and Pathology services in a right-sized, state-of-the-art, energy efficient health care facility.

In September 2011, Schumer announced that the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act he backed had authorized more than $9 million in federal funding for the construction of an expanded, 84,000 square foot VA clinic in Monroe County. This new facility will replace the current 49,000 square foot outpatient clinic at Westfall Road and expand its current services with a bigger facility. The VA prioritized the plan to construct the new clinic under their then-Strategic Capital Investment Plan (SCIP) that determined a larger space was needed to meet the needs of the large Rochester population center. Specifically, the VA determined that the Rochester clinic had more enrolled patients than any other clinic in Upstate NY, and projected demand for outpatient visits was expected to increase by up to 10 percent over the coming 20 years, particularly with the wind-down in wars overseas. This, combined with the fact that parking is inadequate at the 49,000 square foot current outpatient clinic, led to the VA to green-light the plan to fund this new 84,000 square foot space for the clinic, complete with 672 parking spaces that will double the current capacity.

Now, four years later, the process of establishing a new clinic with expanded space and services in Monroe County is underway. Schumer said the VA put out their bid package in June and is now expected to award the contract for a new, long-term lease in early 2016. It will double available parking, expand space for existing services and include new services like CT scan services and Endoscopy.  However, while Schumer said this new facility is a great step forward, upgrades to the outpatient services provided in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region cannot stop. Specifically, Schumer said it is unacceptable that the VA did not initially include ambulatory outpatient surgery facilities to this new plan. As a result, Schumer pushed the VA to move forward with plans that would add on a “phase two” -- a critical second step -- of construction and add clinical space for an outpatient surgery center in Rochester. Schumer said it is good news that this new clinic is expected to begin construction in 2017 and open to patients by 2018, but the upgrades cannot stop there and must include plans to add the outpatient surgery services in Rochester so that patients are not forced to travel nearly 70 miles, in some cases, out of the way to receive care.

A copy of Schumer’s initial October 2015 letter to the VA appears below:

Dear Secretary McDonald,

I write to request that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) prioritize funding in the VA’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2017 Strategic Capital Investment Plan (SCIP) for the creation of an ambulatory surgical facility in Monroe County, New York.  As you know, ambulatory surgery services are currently provided at VA facilities in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany, but not in the Rochester area, which is currently home to 68,936 veterans. Unfortunately, this means VA patients living in the Rochester-Canandaigua, New York VA catchment area who require outpatient surgery must travel to VA medical centers in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany. Alternatively, they must visit a local non-VA provider when available.  Prioritizing a new surgical facility will not only close this gap and prevent long-distance traveling for Rochester area VA patients immediately after they have undergone surgery, it will complement the new 84,000 sq ft VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) that the VA plans to establish in Monroe County starting in the spring of 2016.   

The development of the new 84,000 sq ft VA Outpatient Clinic creates a unique opportunity to improve and expand the level of VA care throughout the Rochester region.  The new clinic will replace the existing smaller VA Clinic in Monroe County, double parking capacity to 672 spaces, and provide new services including CT Scan/Radiology and Endoscopy along with maintaining existing services like dental, primary and specialty care.   However, I understand the VA plans to continue to lease separate additional spaces in Monroe County to house VA Behavioral Health services (counseling, homeless, rehab, and day treatment) as the behavioral health services cannot fit in the new clinic space and because making changes to the scope of the planned clinic to add additional space would severely delay the start of the clinic’s construction this spring.  Instead, I understand, through the Strategic Capital Investment Plan process, that the VA will consider the construction of a “phase II” addition to house both the Behavioral Health services as well as a new ambulatory surgery facility.

Therefore, I urge you to not only consider the construction of a “phase II” facility that will house ambulatory surgery, but to prioritize it for funding approval in the upcoming FY17 Strategic Capital Investment Plan.  Your attention to this matter will help ensure construction of an ambulatory surgery facility which will dovetail with the construction of the new Outpatient Clinic. This approval is essential to meet the needs of Rochester area VA patients who now are lacking local VA outpatient surgery care.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if we can provide any additional information in support of this request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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