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Massena Memorial says veterans hospital in Ogdensburg is unnecessary

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MASSENA — A group of veterans and supporters is focusing efforts on building a veterans hospital in Ogdensburg, but administrators at Massena Memorial Hospital say they already have the makings of a regional U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.

Operation Veterans has been trying to find ways to bring medical services closer to vets since the group formed in 2011. At a meeting Tuesday with state officials in Albany, the group will propose the Pritchard Building at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg as a possible site for the hospital.

But Mark P. Brouillette, Massena Memorial Hospital senior director of ancillary services, says that instead of duplicating services and funding a new medical center in Ogdensburg, his 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.

Massena’s VA Outpatient Clinic, which recently was renovated, occupies 2,900 square feet in the third wing of Massena Memorial.

Through a reimbursement program with the Syracuse VA, the Massena hospital has steadily added services for veterans over 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 Operation Veterans to meet with his hospital’s advisory board to discuss ways to improve services.

However, Navy veteran and Operation Veterans member Joseph M. Cosentino says that the Massena clinic’s services are “minimal” and that patients still have to travel to Albany or Syracuse for major medical services or surgery.

Mr. Cosentino said the approximately 50,000 veterans in St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties can’t wait for those services to become available in Massena. “Our main objective is to get more services for veterans that need it,” he said.

Mr. Cosentino said he hopes the state will fund a feasibility study to determine how much the Ogdensburg 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,” Mr. Cosentino said. “If we can’t get it done there, we may have to go with” Massena Memorial.

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