12.18.15

SCHUMER SECURES COMMITMENT FROM VA THAT FUNDING FOR ‘PHASE TWO’ CONSTRUCTION OF VA OUTPATIENT SURGERY FACILITY IN ROCHESTER WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE PRESIDENT’S FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST – SCHUMER CALLS COMMITMENT A CRITICAL FIRST STEP & VOWS TO FIGHT TO ENSURE FUNDS ARE IN FINAL 2017 APPROPRIATIONS BILL

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 – VA Commits To Including Funds for Surgical Center in its 2017 Budget

Schumer: VA Commitment Is Critical First Step – And I Will Fight Tooth & Nail To Bring Rochester-Area Veterans The Access To Care That They Need & Deserve

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has agreed to include in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget request funding for an outpatient surgical center in the new 84,000 square foot Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Monroe County. Schumer said this is the critical first 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. 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.

“The VA’s commitment to include funding for the second phase of construction for a new outpatient surgery center in Rochester is the first hurdle we needed to clear. Going forward, I am going to keep fighting to ensure the funds needed for this clinic are in the final appropriations bill next year. 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,” said Senator Schumer. “We need to make sure this project can continue moving forward without delay, so our veterans can have access to the specialized healthcare they need and deserve.”

Schumer said that the VA is now 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, 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. Today, Schumer secured that 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.

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.

Wayne Thompson, Chairman of the Finger Lakes Advocacy Council said, “With 68,936 Veterans living throughout the region served by the Canandaigua/Rochester VA facilities, including 43,341 in Monroe County alone, the need is clear for local VA outpatient surgery services and we appreciate Senator Schumer securing this commitment from the VA to include funding for outpatient surgery in their upcoming budget request.”

Todd Baxter, Executive Director of the Veterans Outreach Center said, “I was pleased to join Senator Schumer in October and support his push to secure a commitment from the VA to greenlight a new outpatient surgery capability as part of their plans to build a new VA Outpatient Clinic here in Monroe County.  I’m glad the VA is heeding this call to prioritize funding for this project in their upcoming budget request so that veterans here aren’t subjected to traveling to Buffalo or Syracuse for outpatient surgical care.”

A copy of Schumer’s initial 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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