Lodge near Oakland VA for veterans' families 'is like a 4-star hotel'
Elaine Tomlin was ready to cram into a hotel with two relatives just to be near her sister in the Oakland VA hospital.
A surprise alternative, she discovered, “is like a four-star hotel.”
“This was a dream, a gift — a Christmas gift,” Tomlin, 54, of Philadelphia said in one of 10 airy suites in the Fisher House at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System's University Drive Campus.
Open since Nov. 26, the $5.5 million lodge offers free accommodations for families of veterans receiving care at the hospital. Groups such as the American Legion, corporate sponsors and other contributors paid for the home, which includes a communal kitchen, private rooms and Pittsburgh-themed artwork on the hospital grounds.
VA and Fisher House Foundation officials on Tuesday celebrated the opening, turning attention away from the fatal Legionnaires' outbreak that has rattled the hospital since late November. VA leaders would not speak about the outbreak during a couple hours of tours and events, a spokesman said.
“I didn't wear the uniform, so this is my way of serving,” said Ken Fisher, CEO of the Maryland-based Fisher House Foundation. “We just feel that ‘Thanks for your service' isn't enough anymore, that while they're nice words, they need to be backed up with deeds.”
The foundation has supported the development of 58 Fisher Houses worldwide since its inception about 21 years ago. Fisher said the house in Oakland is the first in Pennsylvania, positioned in Pittsburgh on guidance from the VA and Department of Defense.
The VA has taken ownership of the house and will cover key operating expenses, although that figure was not available. Fundraisers will help support other expenses, such as kitchen supplies.
Planning and fundraising for the Pittsburgh facility ran about six years, said house manager Michael Clark. He said VA workers contributed to the effort during the past three years.
Fisher said he knows of no other Fisher Houses planned in Pennsylvania. The next one slated for opening is in San Antonio.
Hospital officials have declared the Oakland campus clear of Legionella bacteria; the outbreak was announced on Nov. 16. They lifted water-use restrictions there late last week, though restrictions remain in place at the VA's H.J. Heinz Campus near Aspinwall.
One of five Legionnaires' cases tied to the Oakland outbreak might be linked to the Heinz facility, where tests found the waterborne bacteria, but “there is a very high probability it occurred” at the Oakland campus, spokesman David Cowgill has said.
Five patients were sickened, and hospital officials have confirmed one death from the outbreak. Separate tests may show whether four employees who developed respiratory problems contracted Legionnaires' from the hospital water supply.
Cowgill said the VA is not reviewing other cases for possible links to the outbreak.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allegheny County health officials call on retirement homes to stay vigilant on Legionella prevention
- Report linking field surface to cancer elicits Mt. Lebanon protest
- Pittsburgh’s Veterans Day parade moves to Saturday
- Unexpected work delays Allegheny County Health Department’s move into former morgue
- Move-in begins at new homes on site of Hill District housing project
- Newsmaker: Robert E. Neely
- Contempt citation sought by state against Highmark for alleged violation of deal with UPMC
- VA promotion for administrator stuns legislator
- Prosecutors say cyanide-death defendant Ferrante tested toxin on mice to gauge effect on human
- Parkway West off-ramps at Carnegie to close beginning Friday night
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa