Director oversees network of VA facilities serving more than 33,000 veterans

CANANDAIGUA — Bruce Tucker, new director of the VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System, said veterans overall prefer care from Veterans Administration over community options — which has led to developments to foster that preference. 

Along with advances in telehealth, in which veterans can receive certain healthcare services from home, VA is leveraging more full-time physicians. By operating through VA networks such as the one that includes Canandaigua — the VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System — full-time specialists can treat veterans closer to home by working from neighboring VAs. That is taking place now with full-time specialists working from the Canandaigua and Bath VAs, Tucker said during an interview Tuesday at the Canandaigua campus. The same is being done with other VAs in the system.

Tucker, who grew up in Elmira and lives in the Corning area, joined VA more than 27 years ago. Having held progressive leadership positions at the Bath and Canandaigua VAs, Tucker most recently served as interim medical center director for the VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System since September 2018. Prior to that, Tucker was medical VA care line manager/chief of social work at both the Bath and Canandaigua VAs where he planned and managed delivery of medical services.

Best quality care for veterans and employee satisfaction Tucker counts as tops on his list of concerns in overseeing more than 1,800 staff at VA sites serving more than 33,000 veterans. The vast VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System has an operating budget of over $220 million. It encompasses numerous community based outpatient clinics and satellite clinics in counties in upstate New York and Pennsylvania — the Bath, Canandaigua, and Rochester VAs, along with outpatient clinics in Elmira, Wellsboro and Wellsville.

“We are excited to bring Mr. Tucker on board as the new director of the VA Finger Lakes Healthcare System,” stated Dr. Joan E. McInerney, director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 2.  “His sound leadership qualities and proven experience will be a valuable asset for the healthcare system, the employees and volunteers, and most importantly, for the Veterans we are honored to serve.”

With a massive, multi-million dollar construction project underway on the Canandaigua campus, Tucker joined VA Construction Project Manager David Price in Price’s office Tuesday to talk about progress. With work ongoing, access to the VA’s Building 5 auditorium is now through the main building at the campus at 400 Fort Hill Ave. Parking near the VA entrance that was for a time impeded by construction work is back in use, while construction trailers, fencing and other signs of work are visible around campus.

The VA is in line to receive a new, state-of-the-art outpatient clinic in this first phase of construction. In a second phase, veterans will have a new Community Living Center. Designed to be a homey, neighborhood-style setting comprised of small houses, the center will be patterned after St. John’s nursing home model in Penfield. The new VA housing will be the largest community of its kind in the greater Rochester area.

In Price’s office reams of drawings, some draped over a table and many others filed in hanging racks, offered a glimpse of what’s behind bringing the historic Canandaigua VA into the 21st century. Stepping into the foyer of the VA’s main building on Tuesday, Tucker stood for a photo before a display of black and white photos showing construction of the VA that broke ground in 1931.

The current overhaul is preserving architectural elements such as the main building with its signature tower, while providing the most up-to-date building features throughout the campus.