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VA clinic in Oakwood moves to bigger location

POSTED: September 10, 2013 12:32 a.m.

OAKWOOD — Starting Monday, Berlin Eugene Nix of Cleveland was able to seriously shorten his trip for medical care.

In the past, he had to visit doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical center in Decatur. But now, with the opening of a bigger community-based outpatient clinic in Oakwood, he can avoid the long trip.

“I hope it’s going to work out a lot better,” said his wife, Eva.

“The drivers aren’t too good down there (either),” Nix said, drawing an affirming smile from Eva.

Patients used to going to the old Oakwood clinic, which was off Mundy Mill Road at the entrance to Wal-Mart, also will get a treat. The new clinic at 4175 Tanners Creek Drive, off Thurmon Tanner Parkway, is much larger — 18,000 square feet compared to 4,500 square feet — so there’s less crowding, with plenty of available parking and seating inside.

And there are more or upgraded services, including dental care for those who qualify, an urgent-care area and an optical shop.

“We definitely have an expanded staff for our substance abuse treatment program,” said Laurin Word, administrative officer from the Decatur hospital.

Darquita McColumn, nursing manager at Decatur, said she believes each time the VA opens a new outpatient clinic, “it gets bigger and better.

“I’ve gone to probably all the facilities and this one is a top-notch facility, especially with the lab services we have.”

McColumn also particularly cited the urgent-care room as “a step up for us.”

“A lot of times when patients come in and they’re having emergency symptoms, we want to make sure they are seen at the right place at the right time,” she said. “And this is a good place because it’s right near the exit (from Interstate 985) and that’s where the ambulance will come and easily take them out.”

Also, the clinic’s home-based primary care program, which allows homebound veterans to receive care, “had a home in the old facility, but they were using a computer that was available anywhere, anytime,” McColumn said.

Dr. Daniel Wachtel, a psychologist, said the program has about 50 patients.

“We’re just a new team, so we’re growing,” he said. “We hope to increase that number a great deal. We’re slowly getting referrals.”

The first Oakwood clinic opened in 1999 as a way to take some pressure off operations in Decatur.

Later, a clinic was opened in Blairsville to ease growing pains in Oakwood. In addition to a population surge over the years, the Hall County area has seen a spike in the number of aging veterans who need care.

Plans to move to the new Oakwood clinic have been in the works for several years. The new facility initially was set to open June 1, but a delay in ordering furniture put off the opening to Aug. 19.

VA project manager David Peters said in an earlier interview that the new clinic, which has some 5,300 patients, would have 65 staff members, up from 19 in the current center.

“This facility will increase access and ensure that our veterans continue to receive the high-quality health care that they have earned and deserve,” Atlanta VA Medical Center Director Leslie Wiggins has said.

A grand opening will be scheduled at some point to allow the public, particularly veterans, to take a walk through the new clinic and check out its offerings, spokesman Greg Kendall said.

The VA also recently opened a clinic at Fort McPherson, a U.S. Army base in East Point that closed in 2011, “so we’re looking good right now,” he said.


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