MALONE On the day slated for its closure, the Veterans Affairs Community-based Outpatient Clinic received a one-month extension, pushing the closing date back to March 31.
The clinic originally was scheduled to close in August, but was granted an extension until the end of February after U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, intervened with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While he was quoted recently saying the clinic would not be granted any additional time, it appears his continued championing of the cause has given local veterans another month of services.
Mr. Owens had sent Stratton VA Medical Center Director Linda Weiss a letter in early February citing concerns that some veterans who had transferred from the Malone clinic to ones in Plattsburgh and Massena had been placed on waiting lists to receive care. If the Malone clinic were to close, hundreds more would be forced to join them, he said.
I dont know if a month will help, but its a start, local veteran Bruce Allen said. He certainly would prefer to stay in Malone, he said.
Hal Queyor agreed, saying local veterans spent a lot of time and money to start the clinic about 15 years ago. To see the clinic close would be a disappointment, so were happy to hear its extended one month, he said.
Mr. Allen said he hopes the VA office will be able to at least set up a bus service to help veterans to and from Massena and Saranac Lake. His biggest worry is that local veterans will just be left to fend for themselves.
Regarding the clinic possibly staying open, he said, Im still not giving up hope yet.
When the state decided to close the clinic in May, Bonnie Stewart, deputy director of the Franklin County Veterans Service Agency, said it was serving 699 veterans; at its peak, it was serving 820, Ms. Weiss said. There are 4,079 veterans in the county, Ms. Stewart said in October.
This extension is good news for veterans in Franklin County, Mr. Owens said. I am pleased veterans who visit the Malone clinic will have continued access to VA services at a convenient location for an additional month. It is vital that the VA continue to provide veterans in the north country with the best possible care.
If the Malone clinic were to close, local veterans would 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.
As of Friday afternoon, the Franklin County Veterans Service Agency had not received news of the extension. We havent been told anything so we cant comment. As far as we know this is the last day, agency employee Robbin Roser said.
Malones clinic is considered the third most expensive clinic in the nation. The average cost for care per veteran is $4,000 per year, but at the Malone clinic the figure is $11,000. Stratton VA Public Affairs Officer Peter Potter has been quoted as saying that closing the Malone clinic would save $700,000 a year, which he said could be used to increase treatments such as telemedicine, telehealth and programs such as Home-Based Primary Care at the other three nearby facilities.
The Malone clinic has been open since 1999, located first at the Alice Hyde Medical Center.
Multiple calls to Mr. Potter requesting comment went unanswered Friday.