Though a definite location and timeline may still be unavailable, one thing is certain — a local VA clinic is on its way to Hinesville.
According to on an advertisement in Wednesday’s Courier, the Charleston-based Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, was looking for office space, with “occupancy required by 2009.”
However, U.S. Rep Jack Kingston, R-Ga. 1st, announced last year the clinic would open to the public in 2012.
“I would say that they’re deadline is still 2012,” Kingston said. “They just want to get ahead of the curve and I applaud them for doing that, if they can get it done quicker.”
Kingston said the center would need a facility fit to service 5,000 to 9,000 veterans a year with 25-30 medical personnel.
The “competition for space,” as described in the ad, ended Friday when interested and eligible property representatives could express their interest to the VA contracting officer.
To be considered, interested parties had to be able to provide 10,000 square feet of space within a five-mile radius of the intersection of Gen. Stewart Way and Highway 84.
Tonya Lobbestael, the center’s public affairs officer, said the center has its own planning committee to go through the offers, but could not say if local Hinesville government officials or residents would have any say in where the Hinesville clinic would be located.
“We have a strategic planning team at the medical center that works on this clinic and works on every one of our clinics,” Lobbestael said.
The cost to run the Hinesville clinic is not certain, but Lobbestael said the clinic will work to get the appropriate furnishings, medical equipment and tested, “to ensure that everything is meeting all the patients’ safety requirements.”
“Anytime we are going to stand up a new clinic, there is normally an activation period,” Lobbestael said. “It’s not just find a piece of property and open the clinic the next day.”
The plans for the primary care clinic include a medical staff of seven internists and up to four mental health providers and Lobbestael said those may come locally or elsewhere.
“We routinely recruit from a number of sources,” she said.
Lobbestael said all the clinics were interdisciplinary, including a social worker, dietician and pharmacist to offer medication counseling, “helping the veterans understand how to take their medications so they’re most effective.”
She explained the clinic equipment, available services and procedures would be similar to the one in Savannah.
“Imagine your regular doctor’s office set-up, that’s what this clinic is going to be,” Lobbestael said.
If an eligible space is not found, Lobbestael could not say if constructing a building would be considered.
“Our intention right now is to lease space,” she said. “We have done that in some other locations and have been quite successful with it, so that’s what we’re looking to do there.”
Kingston acknowledge the VA has been quiet on the details of the Hinesville clinic, but to ensure accurate public information.
“If they can get something sooner and faster, that would be helpful, but we don’t really know how fast they’re going to be able to move,” he said. “Certainly we’ll do everything that we can to help the VA move that up so they can start serving the area better and as soon as possible.”
Including the Savannah clinic, the Ralph H. Johnson Medical Center has set up four clinics.
“This is a process,” Lobbestael said. “We’re just really excited it’s coming to Hinesville.”