A groundbreaking ceremony for Hinesville’s new Department of Veterans Affairs Primary Care Clinic is 10 a.m. Monday, according to Tanya Lobbestael, public affairs officer for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C.
Lobbestael said local veterans are invited to attend the ceremony, which will take place at the corner of East Oglethorpe Highway and East Memorial Drive. Guest speakers will include Carolyn Adams, director of Johnson VA Medical Center; Col. Ron Place, commander of Winn Army Community Hospital and Medical and Dental Activities Command for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield; Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas; and U.S. Congressman Jack Kingston.
“We’re really enlarging this clinic,” said Adams, noting Hinesville’s temporary clinic is 5,000 square feet, while the new facility will be 23,348 square feet. “We’ll have 65 employees, including six health-care providers that are either doctors, (physician assistants) or nurse practitioners, six (registered nurses), six (licensed practical nurses) and six mental health providers.”
Other staff members include pharmacy staff, radiology technician, optometrist, dietitian, social-work staff and support staff, she said. Among the many mental-health services to be available, mental-health providers will treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. They also will work with homeless veterans and veterans suffering with substance abuse to help them reintegrate into the community. She said mental-health providers at the Johnson VA Medical Center have partnered with Department of Defense facilities, including the naval hospital at Beaufort, S.C. and Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart.
Other health services provided include general radiology, women’s health, optometry and special care for veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Adams said the Charleston medical center includes five community-based clinics and one annex, which together serve the medical needs of more than 56,000 veterans in 21 counties in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. The VA looks at the population of veterans in an area and the drive-time required for them to get to a primary-care facility before determining where and when a new clinic is needed.
Lobbestael said the total number of veterans in the counties served by the new clinic include 7,938 in Liberty County, 1,519 in Long County, 3,065 in Bryan County and 1,615 in McIntosh County.
“We have a large population of veterans in Liberty, Long, Bryan and McIntosh counties,” she said. “It just made sense to put a clinic in Hinesville. (The new clinic) will serve up to 7,200 veterans, but I expect it to grow above that.”
Adams said the VA is working with the Disabled American Veterans to provide a shuttle bus system for the new clinic. The local DAV already operates a shuttle system that transports veterans to clinics in Savannah, where they can connect to another shuttle for the medical center in Charleston.
“The Hinesville clinic should be completed early in 2014,” Adams said. “We’re very excited. Once construction begins, it’ll go up fast.”
Lobbestael said veterans and others planning to attend the groundbreaking ceremony should park at the construction site, which can be accessed through a narrow dirt road off East Memorial Drive.
She said eligibility requirements for veterans seeking treatment at a VA medical facility include those who’ve served on active duty and were separated under any condition other than dishonorable. For more information, go to www.va.gov.