The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
New veterans clinic opens in Fredericksburg
BY LINDLEY ESTES
Everything about the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Fredericksburg Veteran Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic Monday catered to the patients it serves–even the benediction.
The Rev. James Connolly wrote the prayer and sang it to the tune of the national anthem.
“I was thinking that ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is something all our veterans could relate to,” he said. “I wanted to give them a blessing they can relate to more.”
The clinic, an outreach of the McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond, began seeing patients last month at the new building behind the CVS pharmacy on the Mary Washington Healthcare campus. Medical Director Jennifer Ross said it’s a big improvement over the former site in the Townsend Office Park farther south on U.S. 1.
“We were almost at sardine status in the old place,” she said.
The expanded space allows more room for group sessions for behavioral health, weight management and other issues, as well as larger laboratories and more examination rooms.
There are also more physicians–a total of 20 doctors–to care for the 4,500 veterans in the area. The clinic recorded about 19,000 visits last year, and officials said that number continues to grow.
“This clinic just provides veterans and staff with the facilities they deserve,” practice manager Will Maixner said.
Along with more room and physicians, the facility has expanded its technological capabilities. It has a Tele-Health video service that allows patients to talk to medical professionals in other areas and helps veterans who might not have ready access to transportation.
Veterans George Firehammer, 68, and Larry Repanshek, 64, served in the same company in Vietnam and were at Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“The suits came up and thanked us,” Firehammer said. “It shows they have our best [interests] at heart. I think the building represents the VA’s intent to make service available that should be.”
He said the Department of Veterans Affairs has changed a lot, and for the better, since he moved here from Michigan in 1981.
“It just their attitude and the level of care,” he said. “I stopped going to my civilian doctor because I got such good care at the VA.”
Another veteran, 82-year-old Angelo Laviano of Lake of the Woods, said he has been a patient at the Fredericksburg clinic for 10 years.
“They take good care of us,” he said. “It’s why I look so young.”
Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw helped cut the ribbon for the clinic, calling it “a very very important service for some very important people.” She also noted that the 10,000-square-foot clinic was built by local contractors.
“We are delighted it is here in the city,” she said.
One of the caterers, Janice Robinson, is a veteran of Desert Storm and said that working at the ceremony was special.
“We wanted it to be perfect,” she said. “And it was. You could see all the smiles.”
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976