Posted: Monday, September 9th 2013 at 12:33pm
Oakwood VA Clinic moves to new facility
By Marc Eggers Staff
OAKWOOD – The number of military veterans living in northeast Georgia is on the rise, and now these men and women, who offered to risk everything to defend our freedoms, will have a state of the art clinic to help meet their medical needs.
The Oakwood Community Based Outpatient Clinic, part of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, has relocated from their cramped and outdated facility opposite the University of North Georgia's Mundy Mill Road entrance, to a well-lighted and spacious 18,000 square-foot stand-alone building on Tanners Creek Drive just off Thurmond Tanner Parkway.
Originally scheduled to open nearly 100 days ago on June 1st, Greg Kendall, Public Affairs Officer with the Atlanta VA Medical Center, said, "The main thing was just making sure that we’re operational and ready to serve…better to have it all set and ready to go with the minor delays that we had than to try to rush it."
Kendall, a thirty year army veteran and retired Master Sergeant, said the need by veterans in north Georgia is growing. "At the Atlanta VA we are expected to grow continually for the next several years at the rate of ten percent, so this is much needed and will provide great access for local veterans."
Laurin Wood, Administrative Officer for Primary Care, said that with the larger facility there will be an increase in personnel. "We’ll have about 66 full-time employees," Word explained. That compares to roughly 20 employees at their previous location.
And there will be an expansion of their program that travels to the homes of veterans unable to make the trip to Oakwood or Atlanta.
Dr. Daniel Wachtel, a psychologist, will head the Home Based Primary Care program. "(We’re) up to fifty some-odd patients. We’re growing and hoping to increase that number a great deal."
Explaining that Home Based Care will be available to homebound veterans up to 45 miles from Oakwood, Wachtel added, "It’s a valuable service for a lot of our veterans who can’t get the care. We come to them."
DarQuita McColumn, BSN, Primary Care Nurse Manager at the Atlanta VA Hospital, pointed out that there is an entire hallway lined with examination rooms dedicated to mental health, and that treating mental health issues was a significant part in the new facility’s design.
"We just know that… there will be a number of veterans returning with a lot of mental health issues including PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and substance abuse issues. It’s a large group and you have to make sure you prepare for them when they come," McColumn said.
The New York Times recently reported that the suicide rate among war veterans now exceeds the number of combat related deaths. (See report.) "We just can’t do without this aspect," McColumn added.
Eric Ramirez from Buford leaned on his walker as he signed-in to see a doctor. The waiting room was beginning to fill. Ramirez served in the Air Force and said he went to the VA Clinic in Atlanta but that this new facility in Oakwood was "big-time very, very nice."
Sitting nearby Navy veteran William C. Maxwell of Toccoa added his opinion on the new facility, "It’s a lot nicer…so far. I gotta wait and see the Doc and then I can make an opinion."
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