Canandaigua, New York – Work continues on multiple projects across the campus of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center, as visitors can notice the work on new facilities and upgrades to current buildings across 75 percent of the hospital’s grounds.
The work is being done thanks to recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) program noting that the decades-old facilities were being underutilized, said Gerry DiPaola, USACE Project Manager for the Canandaigua VA Medical Center construction.
“This project enhances the use of the current VA Medical Center in Canandaigua. A study was conducted by the VA and it identified an underutilization of facilities at Canandaigua and so to improve services, the study called for a revised outpatient clinic - a 21st-century outpatient clinic - along with community living center cottages to provide housing to veterans that would benefit from an assisted living type of arrangement,” he said. “So basically, the project better utilizes the infrastructure that is at Canandaigua right now, both medically and assisted living care type of facility.”
The work at the Canandaigua VA campus is split up into phases to allow for multiple teams to work on multiple projects at the same time, DiPaola explained.
We have Phase 1, which is the outpatient clinic consolidation, bringing all the clinic services under one roof versus multiple buildings currently, and then you have Phase 2, which is the renovation of Buildings 3 and 9 and the new cottages - right now we have 96 cottages under contract,” he said. “There are plans for a Phase 3 to award, through a new acquisition, the contract options (Cottage A/B and renovations to Buildings 4 and 5) that were unable to be awarded under Phase 2. We are working with our Office of Construction & Facilities Management partners to ensure this plan moves forward.”
DiPaola said there are many things that need to be taken into account when working on an active medical facility’s campus.
“One of the main considerations is that we’re still able to have an active medical center, in other words, maintaining patient services and seeing them with minimal disruption to their normal routine while the work is taking place,” he said. “It’s a great accomplishment - keeping the existing facility up in operation while constructing new infrastructure and renovating the existing.”
“For example, veterans still need to be able to get from the parking or drop-off area all the way to the clinics and back again without injury, without postponing appointments or displacing staff. That’s been a really high priority for us to ensure the medical center can remain fully in operation during the work, especially the suicide prevention call center,” DiPaola added.
Ensuring the safety of patients, visitors, and staff throughout the construction period is a team effort.
“You have life safety requirements that need to be maintained during construction and communicating all of the construction activities with key departments within the medical center (Police, Fire Department, Patient Safety, and Infection Prevention) - those four really need to be informed as to the contractor’s work plan so any concerns can be addressed prior to the actual work being accomplished,” he explained. “It can present some challenges at times, but we have been able to develop workarounds to ensure key requirements from those four departments: security, life safety, and infection prevention so that when patients arrive for their appointments they can rest assured their visit will be safe and they can return home hopefully better than when they arrived.”
Matthew Lowe, Chief of the Veterans Affairs Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, agreed that partnership has been key to the success of the project.
“Renovating and upgrading a VA medical center involves multiple stakeholders with a variety of interests, and it’s encouraging that everyone involved is working together to ensure success for this project,” he added. “The VA CFM and the Canandaigua Medical Center leadership and staff have been instrumental in working through challenges and unknowns throughout these projects.”
That coordination among stakeholders has helped ensure every measure possible is taken to protect the health of patients and staff.
“A lot goes into keeping the medical center safe for the patients and staff as well. For example, it's been studied quite heavily that construction debris/dust and odors have a negative effect on humans, especially on patients that may have an immune deficiency syndrome because there are a lot of harmful contaminants associated with construction that can become airborne and if ingested can really cause people some hardships,” DiPaola said. “That’s why construction in medical facilities requires the use of negative air machines (i.e. vacuum) to ensure that the construction area air is not being introduced into the hospital environment - it's filtered and exhausted properly.”
Being an Army veteran himself, DiPaola said he appreciates the moments his work allows him to be on-site and interact with veterans/patients.
“When you walk into the building checking on work and you pass a Veteran or simply hold a door open, it’s always a good feeling saying hello or to provide directions to a clinic or exit door. It's great to be able to talk to veterans and let them know what's going on and see the benefit of all of the work taking place here,” he shared. “I always look at it as, well, someday I may be using these facilities, so let's make sure they are built well to serve the Veteran population for as long as possible and improve the quality of life for as many Veterans as we can.”
Lowe said he is proud to be a part of this project that will benefit thousands of Veterans for years to come.
“I’ve spent almost 25 years building new facilities and maintaining infrastructure on numerous military installations, but these are projects all about supporting and taking care of our Veterans,” he shared. “It’s a gift to be involved in any capacity with men and women who were willing to sacrifice it all for our country. So not only am I thrilled, but equally humbled to be part of something that will benefit Veterans.”
This project constructs a new 84,000 square foot Outpatient Clinic, a new chiller/emergency generator plant, renovates 85,000 square feet of existing facility space, and upgrades existing roadways and site utilities as well as the renovation and building of 96 community living center cottages and a community center.
These state-of-the-art facilities will seamlessly blend into the existing historical campus of Canandaigua and provide world-class healthcare to approximately 65,000 veterans living near the greater Canandaigua area.
Phase 1 is anticipated to be complete in 2023, and Phase 2 is planned to be completed in 2024.