Expensive hotels and cramped couches will soon be a faded memory for families of veterans being treated for long-term illnesses at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston, Texas when the largest "Fisher House" opens this fall.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi accepted an offer from the Fisher House Foundation to build a 21-suite facility on the Houston VA campus in November 2003. Fisher Houses provide temporary lodging to families of hospitalized VA patients.
The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled to include Principi and former President George H. W. Bush. The former president served as honorary chair for the fund-raising effort.
The MEDVAMC Fisher House is the seventh donated to VA by the Fisher House Foundation. The new Fisher House will include guest suites with private baths, communal kitchen, living and dining rooms, a library, a family room and a manager's office. Normally, each Fisher House has eight to 11 suites. Fisher Houses are built privately and given to the government as a gift through the Fisher House Foundation, Inc. The program began in 1990.
Taking the lead in the fundraising effort, Richard E. Wainerdi, Ph.D., president of Texas Medical Center, accepted the challenge to raise the necessary funds, a sum that will be matched by the Fisher Foundation for construction expenses. Major foundations, corporations, veterans' service organizations, individuals, federal and state lawmakers, and local businesses were quick to respond with support. Gallery Furniture, a local furniture store, has pledged to donate all of the furnishings for the home.
On receipt of the Fisher House, VA takes over management and maintenance of the facility. Other Fisher Houses are located in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York and Ohio, and other homes are being considered in California, New York, and Washington.
Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment such as cardiovascular surgery, ophthalmology care, and treatment of spinal cord injuries and diseases. The Houston VA facility had more than 557,300 outpatient visits last year and about 10,000 inpatient admissions.