Veterans still waiting for new Lake Nona hospital
Raymond Barr has stayed in a VA-contracted nursing home with rats, roaches and poor storage of medical equipment. So he’s developed a simple test for whether a VA facility is acceptable.
“If you open that door and you get one of these odors that run you back out the door, you don’t want to go there," Barr said. "You don’t want to put your parents there. Nobody else want to put their parents there. It’s not living conditions.”
Barr is president of the resident’s council at the 120-bed nursing home the VA opened last December in Medical City, followed by a residential rehab facility. What’s missing, though, is the 134-bed hospital and outpatient facility a short walk away.
How far behind is the hospital? Consider this: President Barack Obama was just a candidate when the Lake Nona facility broke ground -- and it was supposed to be open before his reelection in 2012.
Orlando VA Spokesman Mike Strickler says construction is expected to finish by the end of 2014. He says the hospital should start seeing patients 60 to 90 days later.
“We’d like to see it open just as soon as we can," Strickler said. "As an employee of the VA Medical Center we’re also leaning forward there because at Lake Baldwin we’re kind of bursting at the seams.”
Meanwhile, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has announced changes to the VA system, including a nationwide customer service department and borrowing from the private sector. Jerry Pierce, the former chairman of the Central Florida Veteran’s Memorial Park Foundation, said he’s pleased with the changes.
“There have been organizational issues in Washington, and I think this sounds like this is going to shuffle the deck and get things moving in the right direction.”
Florida has the third highest concentration of veterans in the country, and the local VA system provides health care to 100,000 patients per year.