Capt. Gayle D. Shaffer, from left,, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Jacksonville, John S. Goldman, director of Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, and Col. Don Davis, commanding officer of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, sign an agreement to relocate Albany’s downtown, community-based, VA outpatient clinic to MCLB Albany. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — Nearly 6,000 military veterans and 1,500 active duty military members living in the Albany area will soon have greater access to health care thanks to an agreement that will combine Veterans Administration and Naval Hospital healthcare services at Albany’s Marine Corps Logistics Base.
Leaders from Naval Hospital (NH) Jacksonville, the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, and MCLB met Friday to announce an agreement that relocates VA health care providers and services from downtown Albany to NH Jacksonville’s Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Albany on board the Marine Corps Logistics Base.
Beginning August 1, VA services will be available at BHC Albany’s 22,179 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility currently located at MCLB. Veterans and active duty military will also have access to ancillary services such as pharmacy, laboratory and radiology.
The plan to merge VA services with NH Jacksonville on the Marine base began roughly two years ago. The merger will bring enhanced services to patients while also making those services more easily accessible, military officials contend.
“By combining Navy medicine and veteran’s affairs resources we will bring the best in patient care to our active duty and our veterans in Albany,” said Capt. Gayle D. Shaffer, commanding officer of NH Jacksonville. “Our collaboration not only expands and enhances care, but we’re able to deliver that care in a cost-effective manner and be good stewards of tax payer dollars.”
John S. Goldman, director of Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, echoed those sentiments saying that the agreement will not only enhance accessibility and overall care, but will likely bring services to even greater numbers of veterans, who may now take advantage of those benefits.
“There are about 6,000 patients in this area,” said Goldman. “I think once we start moving those services here I think you’ll see that number in the first year or two go up by at least two or three thousand patients. That’s my personal feeling.”
Goldman said that providing services to veteran’s in southern Georgia has been a difficult task for some time due to lack of resources in a large geography. Currently the VA Office in Dublin handles the needs of veteran’s in 52 counties in Georgia, with only a handful of clinics and other services available. The Albany VA clinic is now located on West Broad Avenue.
Goldman believes the new collaboration will alleviate some of those challenges and will also be well received by veterans.
“Not only will they have a modern clinic to go to, they’ll have VA doctors and VA nurses and Navy doctors and Navy nurses taking care of them,” said Goldman. “And our veterans will truly enjoy coming on base here. They’ll feel back at home. You know they’ve been on bases like this before and they’re very excited.”
For Col. Don Davis, commanding officer of MCLB, being able to facilitate the collaboration by providing space on the base for the move was a win win situation for MCLB Albany.
“I thought that (it) was a great idea, a great opportunity to serve those who have paid their dues: our veterans, our retirees and so forth, who would be able to gain access to better care,” Davis said. “So, the opportunity for the 5,000 plus veterans, and upwards of 10-15,000 folks that are in this immediate 50 mile radius, the opportunity to have a high quality care experience here just seemed like an absolute win. For us to be a part of that and facilitate that, it was really a no brainer. So, I’m glad that this day has finally come. I’ve already turned the building over to the VA so we’re ready to rock and roll.”
Currently the new clinic is slated to open August 1, 2014, but some services could be available as early as April.