5/23/2016 - Veterans' clinic opens in Spotsylvania County

BY KRISTIN DAVIS/THE FREE LANCE-STAR | Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2016 12:30 am

Fifteen years ago, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs clinic opened for the first time in Fredericksburg.

The facility would outgrow itself twice in less than a dozen years, moving to its most recent quarters at 130 Executive Center Parkway in Fredericksburg in 2012.

But with the region now home to one of the fastest-growing populations of veterans in the country — a trend expected to continue — a single, community-based outpatient clinic is no longer enough.

The crowded facility will get some relief when a second VA clinic opens at Lee’s Hill Medical Plaza in Spotsylvania County April 4. Workers are putting the final touches on the 10,000-square-foot facility: performing security checks, installing signs and calibrating equipment.

“We don’t want any hiccups while serving patients,” said project manager Bailee Bannan.

The new facility will provide some breathing room at the current clinic, where 10 patient-aligned care teams serve more than 7,000 area veterans.

Four of the teams—made up of doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and others—will move into the Spotsylvania digs, leaving a much more manageable six at the Fredericksburg clinic, Bannan said.

Eventually, two more teams will join the new clinic’s roster.

The VA has outfitted the Lee’s Hill clinic with an audiology booth and a full-time audiologist, which Bannan called the fastest-growing service for veterans of all ages. Anyone in need of a hearing test previously had to drive to Richmond.

Telehealth services will allow for “visits” with specialists via real-time video conferencing, which the VA hopes further cuts down on trips to Richmond or Washington.

“We’re trying to save the veteran the drive and the time,” Bannan said.

The expansion will increase the capacity for home-based primary care from 35 patients to around 100, many of whom live in the Northern Neck, said VA spokeswoman Armenthis Lester.

Twelve exam rooms, two speciality care rooms and a treatment room will help serve routine medical needs, as well as more advanced care.

Anyone who requires emergency-room treatment won’t have far to go. The new clinic is located above a free-standing emergency department.

Two interior designers worked to create a tranquil space that promotes healing, Bannan said. Nature photographs hang on walls painted in warm tones.

“The goal is for every veteran to choose us, to say this is where I want to go,” Lester said. “We feel we are best suited to treat America’s veterans.”