By LOIS KINDLE
Military veterans living in southern Hillsborough County will soon get respite from driving all the way to north Tampa for their medical care.
Officials from the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa are preparing to break ground on a community-based outpatient clinic later this month at 12929 Summerfield Crossing Blvd. near U.S. 301 in Riverview. When the clinic opens in the spring 2019, it will mean less time on the road and more efficient care for the 10,000 veterans who live in the South Shore area. More than 4,500 of them reside in Sun City Center.
Construction on the $44.5 million facility, which will be built and leased to Haley by Hokanson Companies Inc. of Indianapolis, is expected to start almost immediately after the groundbreaking, said Haley spokeswoman Shayna Rodriguez. That’s good news for area veterans.
“It’s a godsend for the area,” said Ed Socha, 95, a Sun City Center resident who enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a teenager in 1939 and retired as a commander more than 25 years later. A Pearl Harbor survivor, Socha said he feels the clinic is “sorely needed,” adding he regularly sees a doctor at the James A. Haley VA Hospital more than 35 miles from where he lives.
“I’ll definitely use it,” he said. “I don’t drive anymore so I have to get a ride from Samaritan Services. It will be so much closer and convenient.”
Army veteran Gordon Allen, 74, agrees.
“I frequently use the VA hospital in Tampa and it’ll be great not to have to fight that traffic,” the Sun City Center resident said. “I have a chronic, debilitating condition, and my doctor tells me within six months, I won’t be able to drive anymore. My wife, Darlene, will then have to take me to my medical appointments, so it’s even more important that this new clinic be closer.”
The 50,000-square-foot community-based outpatient facility will provide primary and specialty care, preventative care, and mental health and telemedicine services. It will offer audiology, MRIs, X-rays, CAT scans, ultrasound, physical therapy and labs, plus on-site prescription service. For urgent care, veterans must continue going to the VA hospital or another area hospital.
“Our priority is for all veterans in our catchment area to get the highest quality care when they need it, so we are just as excited as our patients are to get this clinic up and running in south Hillsborough County,” said Haley Director Joe Battle in an e-mail. “We’re looking forward to joining this wonderful community and are grateful for the opportunity to serve our veterans closer to home.”
Same-day services are a priority for Haley, whether they’re through an appointment or tele-help, Rodriguez said.
“Veterans can actually teleconference with their healthcare providers, and we also offer MyHealtheVet, where they can securely message their care team,” she said.
The community-based outpatient clinic will feature two modules of patient-aligned care teams (PACT), a group of healthcare professionals working together on behalf of each veteran. They look at all aspects of a veteran’s health and offer a coordinated, team-based approach in providing the best possible care.
The PACTs include a registered nurse who coordinates care and provides follow-up; a primary care provider who leads the team and determines the best course of action for a patient’s condition; clerical associate; clinical associate (licensed practical nurse, medical assistant or health technician); social worker; psychologist; pharmacist; and dietitian. Each veteran who receives care from the VA gets an extensive list of the services each PACT member provides.
The new facility is the first VA community outpatient care clinic in Hillsborough County. The VA also has outpatient clinics in Lakeland, New Port Richey, Zephyrhills and Brooksville.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 813-972-2000.