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New VA Secretary Tours Orlando Clinics

John Mica at Lake Baldwin VA

John Mica speaks to the media in front of the Lake Baldwin VA facility as US Army veteran Michael Durieux looks on. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has toured Orlando’s VA facilities- and seen first-hand the needs facing Central Florida veterans.

McDonald met with VA stakeholders including Winter Park Republican Congressman John Mica Thursday.

Robert McDonald’s visit comes in a difficult week for the Orlando VA.

A veteran killed himself in the parking lot of the Lake Baldwin clinic on Monday, and it was also revealed this week that some patients had contracted legionnaires disease at the Lake Nona facility.

However, outside the Lake Baldwin clinic, Congressman Mica said he was pleased with McDonald’s visit.

“It’s absolutely packed and it was good to see it packed on the day that the veterans secretary came here,” said Mica.

“That’s the argument I’ve been making to keep this facility open.”

Mica says he wants vacant domiciliary care beds at Lake Baldwin to be made available to veterans, and a commitment from the VA for resources to help homeless veterans in the area.

Meanwhile the new VA hospital at Lake Nona is behind schedule and over budget, but once it opens, Mica says he’s confident it will be the finest in the country.

US Army veteran Michael Durieux was leaving the Lake Baldwin clinic as Mica spoke to media.

He said he hopes McDonald can help the department improve.

“They’re overwhelmed in there, they’re packed,” he said.

“They’re jammed up in there. We need a bigger and better facility, and they need to pay the employees more money because they do the best with what they have.”

Durieux said he’ll start getting treatment at the Lake Nona facility once it opens- but he’s still not sure how he’ll get there using public transport.

The Lake Nona hospital is expected to open by the end of the year.

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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »