With furniture and computers on the way this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Oakwood Community Based Outpatient Clinic is preparing to open Sept. 9.
“We finally got a hard date on the furniture (arriving),” VA project manager David Peters said Thursday. “I’m so much happier now that we have the furniture coming.”
The clinic initially was set to open June 1, but a delay in ordering furniture for the 24,000-square-foot building off Thurmon Tanner Parkway forced a change in the opening to Aug. 19.
The VA went through a major reorganization in its contracting department last year, resulting in officials “re-educating (all) their contracting specialists on how they’re going to do their job, and that took specialists away from ordering,” Peters has said.
He added that delays have helped in one way: Officials have been able to work out any structural issues — including one involving the roof — before the building opens for business. Work has been mostly finished since March on the new clinic, which is on Tanners Creek Drive, just north of H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway.
Plans to move to the clinic have been in the works for several years, as the current 4,500-square-foot clinic off Mundy Mill Road at Old Mundy Mill Road has become overcrowded.
The VA opened that clinic in 1999 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.
Also, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are returning home with pressing health care needs.
Officials recognized more space was needed.
“As soon as we open, it’s going to be busy,” Peters has said.
Atlanta VA Medical Center Director Leslie Wiggins said in an emailed statement Thursday: “We are very excited about the opening of the new Oakwood Clinic. This facility will increase access and ensure that our veterans continue to receive the high quality health care that they have earned and deserve.”
The new clinic will have 65 staff members, up from 19 in the current center, where “they are all crammed in,” Peters said.
It will feature a variety of services not offered at the current clinic, including dental care for those who qualify and an optical shop.
Flowery Branch resident Harold Nash, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he had been assigned to the Oakwood clinic for medical care but now is assigned to one in Lawrenceville.
“Because of the expanded services, I’m anticipating I’ll probably try to get transferred back to Oakwood,” he said.