About 50 U.S. veterans and seniors were on hand Monday for the grand opening of a new medical center in Sunnyside that will provide health-care services for the more than 125,000 veterans who live in Queens.
Also in attendance were U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Marc McMillan, a representative for Queens Borough President Claire Shulman.
The clinic at 41-03 Queens Blvd. is the 31st office established throughout the city by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and will be a satellite medical center of the Bronx Veteran Affairs Medical Center, said James Farsetta, director of the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Network for New York and New Jersey. It will offer complete primary care services including physical exams, blood pressure and blood sugar screenings and prescription medication services, said Nancy Mirone, the program management officer.
The clinic will serve those veterans who otherwise had to travel to Brooklyn or the Bronx for their basic health-care needs, according to Maryann Musumeci, director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Musumeci, who thanked those in attendance for making the new facility a reality, said the new clinic is a welcome addition to the Sunnyside area which has 50,000 veterans in the neighborhood, the highest concentration of veterans in New York City.
"We're hoping this clinic will be utilized," she said. "But it's up to you to ensure that this clinic is a great success. Hopefully, it will be one of many."
The outpatient clinic, which will be open only on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will eventually be open five days a week, Musumeci said.
Farsetta said his organization has seen a 25 percent increase in usage by clinics in the past five years.
"We've changed the way we deliver health care," he said. "It's our goal to make health care as accessible as possible."
Crowley, who praised the opening of the office as a symbol of respect for America's veterans, said the clinic will be able to provide better medical access to those veterans who qualify for services.
World War II veteran and Woodside resident Tony Coppola, who walks with a cane, could not be happier with the new clinic opening within a mile of his home. He said in the past he had to travel to the Bronx to receive health care, which was often difficult.
"It's just wonderful," said Coppola, who served 28 months in the Air Force. "It's a long time coming. Thirty-thousand of us die every month and after 54 years it's finally here."
Brooklyn resident Alfred Rice, another World War II veteran who serves as the senior vice president of the Queens Memorial Chapter of the Disabled Veterans of America, said the new clinic will benefit those who are less fortunate than he.
"It's a godsend that this is here now," Rice said. "And with God's help it will blossom into a blooming affair that will help even more veterans."
Although the clinic is in its beginning stages and is only open two days a week, Rice has hope that it will expand to serve the entire veterans' community and its needs.
"It's a beginning," he said. "It's like the Chinese say, 'Each 1,000-mile trip begins with the first step.'"
Reach reporter Peter Sorkin by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.