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New Oakwood VA clinic to open June 1
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OAKWOOD — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t expect a slow trickle of patients when it opens the doors to the new Community Based Outpatient Clinic.“As soon as we open, it’s going to be busy,” said David Peters, project manager for the VA in Atlanta.But unlike the current, 4,500-square-foot clinic on Mundy Mill Road, space won’t be a problem for patients and staff when the clinic opens June 1.Work has finished on the 24,000-square-foot structure on Tanners Creek Drive, off Thurmon Tanner Parkway and just north of H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway.“We need furnishings — that’s what’s next (in the project),” Peters said from the facility last week. “We have to have everything set in its proper location.”A grand opening ceremony could take place a month or so after the opening, or around the July Fourth holiday.The VA opened the current 4,500-square-foot clinic in 1999 to relieve overcrowded operations in Decatur.Later, a clinic was opened in Blairsville to take some pressure off the growing Oakwood clinic. 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.Also, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are returning home with pressing health care needs.Officials recognized more space was needed.Here’s one picture of how much more space they’ll get: The new clinic will have 65 staff, up from 19 in the current center, where “they are all crammed in,” Peters said.One of the huge benefits of the new clinic is that it will save many veterans what can be an all-day trip to the VA Medical Center in Decatur.Dr. Michael Streleckis, team lead physician at the Oakwood clinic, said in an earlier interview that the new clinic would feature “more primary care capacity and more psychiatry capacity, and there also will be rooms set aside for specialists.“The thought is we’ll have different rotating subspecialists through (such fields as) cardiology, endocrinology and rheumatology,” Streleckis said.Also, the clinic features a dental area (for those who qualify for that service) and an optical shop.Parking also won’t be an issue as it can be at the current center, which is across from University of North Georgia-Gainesville and at the entrance to Wal-Mart in Oakwood.The new center will feature 200 total spaces, including 20 at the covered entrance for those with handicapped parking permits.“We’ll be able to treat patients right, too,” Peters said.“Right now ... when a patient checks in, they sit down in the lobby, then they get called to see a nurse, then they go back and sit down, and then, when their exam room’s open, they go back in.