After almost two years — and with the snip of a red velvet ribbon — Curry County veterans have a new clinic in Brookings that is three times as large as the old one.
The local Marine Corps League retired the American and POW-MIA flags at the old clinic on Fifth Street Monday, then went to the new facility on Railroad Street to raise new ones during grand opening ceremonies.
Veterans’ officials from the Roseburg VA lauded numerous people, from carpenters to politicians, computer specialists and social workers, for the work building and preparing the 7,290-square-foot facility.
It’s the sheer size of the clinic many veterans couldn’t wait to see.
“This is a vast improvement over our previous location, where we had staff tripping over each other to provide care,” said acting Roseburg VA Health Care System Director Barb Galbraith. “This (is the culmination of) many hours, many decisions, a lot of sweat, tears and even a little blood. It’s challenging to open a new facility. This is a big day for Brookings.”
The new clinic offers the same primary health-care services, expanded mental health assistance and tele-health.
There are social workers and psychologists and two primary-care teams, each comprised of a provider, an RN, an LPN and a medical support assistant in charge of scheduling, said Shanon Goodwin, public affairs officer.
VA officials at the opening celebrations admitted it was a long time coming.
Dr. Jim Hay said in opening statements that he was told to “take ownership” of the project in early 2016 and “make it happen.”
He praised all involved, and particularly those who worked to finalize work at the facility in the past month.
“I’m proud of our social workers, our doctors, nurses, managers that continually served the county all through the fire, the evacuations,” he said. “I’m proud of our support teams: electricians, logistics, IT, carpenters, that put the final touches on this to make it ready for veteran care.”
“Great achievements come from great beginnings,” said Roseburg VA Chaplain Dwayne Brown during an invocation. “We got this built and then the fire went through the community; we learned dreams can be fragile.
“This is a place where the wounded can come to be healed,” he said of the new building. “Where the anxious can be calmed, the troubled find serenity, the weak find strength, the weary find rest, where veterans can find compassion, understanding and heartfelt help.”
Brookings Mayor Jake Pieper and City Manager Gary Milliman noted that the clinic is a step forward in improving overall health care options in the south end of the county, particularly for veterans and clinic staff.
Britt Boice, speaking on behalf of her husband County Commissioner Court, explained the meaning of the word “responsibility” and “duty” as it related to veterans’ work; another asked the crowd gathered to remember the day — Sept. 11 — when terrorists struck New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Brookings resident Mike Berns, however, took to the dais to address the inadequacies of the VA clinics here and in Roseburg, citing his personal challenges with the system. He was urged to discontinue talking, but others wanted officials to let him speak, as the issues he outlined are ongoing and frustrating.
Some of them involve the lack of communication between VA officials and patients, perceived misdiagnoses, bureaucracy and the difficulty getting to appointments in Roseburg — some of which only last a few minutes after a four-hour one-way.
A quarterly VA town hall is slated for November, at which time veterans can voice their opinions on the new facility and outline any deficiencies.
Veterans then toured the clinic — some lined up for appointments — commenting on the new exam rooms and all the office space.
A large waiting room with windows let in the day’s sunlight, staff guided visitors through the exam rooms and showed off the clinician work areas and how their layout provides a better traffic flow for patients and their providers.
Last fiscal year, the VA clinic on Fifth Street saw 1,627 veterans; this year, to date, it has already seen almost 1,450 patients. Many veterans are pleased because clinic offerings here might save them a trip to the Rogue River Valley for basic healthcare needs.
“We want this clinic to provide health and healing for our nation’s heros,” Brown said.