By Holly West
With the opening of a new Veteran’s Affairs facility in Wayne County, many North Carolina veterans now have access to health care closer to home.
The Goldsboro Community Based Outpatient Clinic is a more convenient alternative for veterans in Wayne County and surrounding areas who have previously had to drive to Fayetteville or Durham to visit a VA clinic.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, Robin DeMark, public affairs officer for Fayetteville’s VA Medical Center, said the center has heard positive feedback from the community in the four weeks since it opened on July 1.
“We’ve already heard many of our vets say this is a welcome addition to the community,” she said.
Elizabeth Goolsby, director of the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, said the clinic allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to reach more veterans than it could before.
“We had envisioned that a number of the patients from Fayetteville would be transferring to Goldsboro, and some are,” Goolsby said. “But we’re [also] seeing a lot of brand-new veterans who have never been seen in VA before. So that’s exciting.”
The center, located at 2610 Hospital Rd., across the street from Wayne Memorial Hospital, opened on July 1. It is currently staffed to serve up to 2,400 veterans. But the 10,000-square-foot clinic has the capacity to serve up to 6,000 patients.
Goolsby said more medical professionals will be hired as the need increases.
Federal dollars at work
Goolsby said the $10 million cost of the new clinic was covered by money appropriated from Congress.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield spoke at the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. He said veterans deserve first-rate health care.
“We are making some very difficult budget decisions in Washington, but we cannot break our commitment to veterans,” he said.
The center offers primary care, mental health services and specialty care.
Goolsby said much of the specialty care is done through the VA’s telehealth system, which allows patients to consult with specialists over video teleconferencing (V-Tel).
“We can have a veteran who is seen here in this clinic and may need a consult from a specialist from Fayetteville,” Goolsby said.
“Instead of traveling to Fayetteville, we use V-Tel technology to have the patient seen here with the provider in Fayetteville on a secure television setup.”
The Goldsboro facility brings to 26 the number of VA health care facilities around North Carolina. A decade ago the VA only had a few facilities, consisting primarily of the hospitals in Durham, Fayetteville, Salisbury and Asheville.
Long time coming
Construction crews broke ground on the building in October 2011. It was originally slated to open in the summer of 2012, but construction delays pushed it back a year. DeMark said despite the delay, the project stayed within its budget.
She said the building was constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
“Some of those took a little longer than expected, but we’re pleased with it,” DeMark said. “We took our time building the clinic and making sure it was built correctly.”
Sam Sasser, president of developer Construction Managers Inc., said he is happy with the end result.
“Our goal was to deliver a facility that would serve local veterans for many years,” he said.