Veterans clinic still on hold

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, said Wednesday he is disappointed that Veterans Affairs continues to push back its target date to open the clinic.

His office mailed a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki two weeks ago, highlighting the missed deadlines and requesting that the clinic be opened as soon as possible. Kingston said he is waiting for a formal response before deciding on his next move.

Georgia's senators are expressing disappointment in the ongoing delay, as well.

"Community-based outpatient clinics are an integral part of providing veterans access to the very best care and services," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican.

"I am disappointed contracting issues have delayed the delivery of timely and quality health care to veterans in the Brunswick area, and I will continue to work with the VA to ensure that this facility becomes a reality."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, also a Republican, said he understands the importance of the promised outpatient clinic.

"It is only right that our veterans have the access to medical care that they need," Chambliss said. "My office has been working for several months to get a response from the VA on its commitment to bring the clinic to Brunswick, and I will continue to press the VA to ensure that veterans in the area gain access to critical services."

The clinic, for which the VA says it is recruiting and hiring medical staff, cannot be opened because the VA has yet to identify a site and negotiate and sign a lease for it.

Even after there is an agreement, the clinic cannot be opened for four more months.

The waiting period, said Janine Cameron, a public affairs officer for the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, is to allow managers to identify potential problems in the site before patients arrive.

"No matter what location you pick, sometimes there are certain things that have to change in the interior," Cameron said. "We want to make sure it's set up exactly right."

The clinic is to serve 4,000 to 5,000 veterans who now commute a minimum of 130 miles to clinics in Lake City, Fla., Dublin and Augusta for care.

The plan is for the clinic to have a primary care doctor, podiatrist, optometrist, dietician, pharmacist and mental health professionals.

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