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New, larger veterans clinic opens in Yuma
Yuma County veterans have long complained about the lack of medical services they could get locally, but that's now changing. After more than four years of planning, the Southern Arizona Veterans Health Care System has finally opened a new VA clinic in Yuma that will serve an estimated 10,000 patients.
The new VA clinic, which began seeing patients on Monday, is located in the former Miller's Outpost store at the Big Curve Shopping Center. The new facility has 15,000 square feet of space that will provide primary medical care, a pharmacist, and mental health counseling,
“We are currently the largest VA clinic in Arizona now,” said the clinic's office manager, Caril De La Fontaine. “It took a little longer, but it was well worth it.”
De La Fontaine said that since the new facility is larger than 10,000 square feet, which is the typical size for a VA clinic, it had to go back to Congress for reapproval.
Yuman John Winn, who served 23 years in the Marine Corps, was one of the many veterans who had an appointment on the clinic's first day and said he was impressed with the new facility and extremely grateful it was finally open.
“I think it's great,” Winn said. “We definitely needed a new facility because of the large number of veterans who live in the Yuma area.”
De La Fontaine said veterans such as Winn were instrumental in pushing for a new VA clinic in Yuma. She added that during construction, veterans would come by the site every day and shake hands with members of the construction crew, thanking them for building it and asking when it would be open.
The new facility replaces the old 3,925-square-foot clinic that shared a building with the Bureau of Land Management at 2555 E. Gila Ridge Road. It was closed last week in order to move to the new facility.
“The reception area seems as large, if not larger than the entire facility on Gila Ridge,” Winn said.
The new clinic is also expected to provide care to eligible veterans who live in La Paz, Pima and surrounding counties.
“Any veteran can go to any VA clinic and receive care,” De La Fontaine said.
Winn said because the new Yuma clinic has more space and is able to offer many more services, he and many other vets won't have to spend hours driving to VA clinics in Casa Grande or the main facility in Tucson to get some of the care they need.
In addition to the services it is currently offering, De La Fontaine said the new clinic will eventually offer a greater range of care, including optometry, audiology, physical therapy and radiology services, as well as a dietitian and assistance with prosthetics.
She explained that the VA is currently interviewing for those positions and once they are filled, they will began offering those services as well. She said they haven't been able to provide these services in Yuma in the past because the old clinic was too small.
The new clinic also offers telemedicine services in several areas such as cardiology and psychology. Telemedicine allows veterans to meet with specialists in Tucson using real-time, two-way audio/video connections.
De La Fontaine said the new clinic also works in conjunction with a Rural Health Care Coordination Center that will provide primary care service for homebound and homeless veterans
There are about 19,700 veterans in the Yuma area, not all of whom go to the VA for care. Only about 3,700 veterans receive primary care at the current Yuma clinic. Yuma still does not have a enough veterans to sustain a hospital here, according to Veterans Affairs.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.