Our region during 2004 witnessed a bittersweet victory in the ongoing battle over whether to keep the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Hospital open. The VA Hospital is more than a place of care and sanctuary for our veterans; it is an icon in Canandaigua, Central New York and the Finger Lakes region.
Through the efforts of those of you who attended hearings, participated in rallies, signed petitions and contacted elected officials, the hospital remains operating today. Working together, we were successful in keeping this facility open to serve our veterans. I have rarely seen our community unite to fight for something as it did last year for the Canandaigua VA Hospital.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson visited the Canandaigua VA Hospital, where I spent some time with him. Though he couldn’t commit one way or the other, Secretary Nicholson vowed to be open to suggestions and different uses for the facility. While his visit was for informational purposes, he did say the testimony of local officials, veterans and community members on behalf of the hospital would influence the commission’s final decision in 2006.
In 2004, the CARES. Commission recommended the hospital remain open, though its members suggested the psychiatric care beds be moved to another Western New York facility. The commission also recommended building a new nursing home in the Canandaigua area.
The CARES. Commission has several options for the hospital’s continued or new use. The top options for the center are:
- Continuation and/or expansion of all services offered at the hospital
- Moderate to high relocation of services, leaving some operations at the hospital
- Closing the hospital and redeveloping the land.
A large majority of Canandaiguans and New Yorkers know the hospital must remain open and at its current or increased operating level. The hospital is a landmark in our area, a source of employment and economic stability, but, most importantly, it’s a haven for veterans who have so bravely and valiantly served our nation.
If you have Internet access, please visit the CARES. Commission Web site at www.va.gov/CARES/ to review proposals for the Canandaigua VA Hospital. I have promoted and will continue to advocate on behalf of the hospital, the city of Canandaigua, Central New York and Finger Lakes region.
I am hopeful that, after his visit, Secretary Nicholson now truly realizes how important this facility is to our community, and that he will make the right choice – to keep the Canandaigua VA Hospital open!