Efforts being made to keep Baldwin Park VA Clinic open

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ORLANDO, Fla. - U.S. Rep. John Mica was in Orlando Monday to talk about efforts to keep the Baldwin Park Veterans Affairs Clinic and its vacant beds open.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to open a new medical center at Lake Nona.

That means the Baldwin Park facility on Raymond Street could be shut down by the VA.

He said the acting VA Secretary's Office told him they should have a decision about the future of the campus in the next 60 days.

Mica said he's hopeful that decision will be to keep this facility open and operational even after the Lake Nona hospital opens.

Right now, 180 beds are vacant at the Lake Baldwin Center. They've been vacant since the Lake Nona facility opened a part of medical campus. The vacant areas in Lake Baldwin are being used by some of their mental health physicians and patients, but just until they know what will ultimately happen.

Officials said about 100,000 veterans using the Lake Baldwin clinic each year.

"We desperately need to keep this open," said veteran James Poynter.

Poynter, a disabled Vietnam veteran, said he's had to wait up to four months for treatment at the Lake Baldwin clinic. He said that while it isn't the perfect situation he believes that closing the facility once the one in Lake Nona opens could be a disaster.

"It's going to be full right from the start. It's not going to be able to accommodate the amount of people and it's taken them what, 15 years to get it this far?" said Poynter.

Mica and the Orlando VA projected that the Lake Nona facility will not be large enough to serve the growing veteran population in the area.

"With the close down of the war, you have more retiring veterans, more veterans needing assistance, combat related injuries," said Mica.

All of the available beds at Lake Nona are taken.

"Now that we have substantiated need, we know the capacity and who can be served with the facility we have at Lake Nona. This facility needs to stay open," said Mica.