Monday, January 7, 2008

New Outpatient Clinic to open in Aiken SC

Mary Snelling, the manager of the soon to be opened VA clinic, was on hand Monday to take questions from veterans. Opening of new Aiken VA clinic preceded by veterans' seminars

By JOSH VOORHEES, Staff writer
Officials from the United States Veterans Affairs were on hand Monday at a town-hall meeting to discuss the soon-to-open Aiken VA clinic with area veterans.
The new VA clinic, which will be an extension of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, is set to open next month and will provide primary care and mental health treatment to area veterans – saving many local veterans trips across the river or to Columbia in order to see their primary physicians.
Those veterans requiring specialty care or surgeries will still likely need to travel to Augusta, said officials, although some services such as lab work and X-rays will be provided through Aiken Regional Medical Centers in some situations.
"We are going to do primary care in Aiken just like it has been done in Augusta," said Mary Snelling, clinic manager, while assuring the veterans on hand that the Aiken clinic will make receiving basic care easier.
"We estimate that 19,000 veterans in Aiken, Edgefield and Barnwell counties will benefit from the new clinic," said Rebecca Wiley, director of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, noting that the clinic expects to treat 5,000 veterans during its first year in operation.
The new clinic is a result of a 2002 VA program aimed at realigning medical services to better suit veterans, especially those who do not live in cities.
"In the past, regardless of where the veterans were located, the clinics stayed put," said Wiley.
Wiley and her staff were given the official go ahead for the Aiken clinic in July of last year and say they quickly made its construction a priority to meet the needs of local veterans.
"We pushed aggressively to make this happen," Wiley told the several dozen veterans gathered Monday, adding that the six-month turnaround time from approval to opening was an accomplishment that the VA was particularly proud of.
The 10,000 square-foot clinic will be located at 951 Millbrook Road in Aiken and will open with 17 staff members including two physicians, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and three social workers; however, officials say, that number will likely climb closer to 30 as the need grows.
In order to make the transition easier for patients and the medical staff at the new clinic, honorably discharged veterans who are interested in receiving care in Aiken are asked to preregister with the clinic before its opening Feb. 4.
Benefit seminars and registration will be held during the next two weeks at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday until Jan. 18. Veterans interested in enrolling for health care should bring their discharge papers (DD-214) or other proof of eligibility, as well as income verification for themselves and spouses for 2007.
Additional information about the benefit seminars and registration is available by phone at 1-800-836-5561, ext. 3259. Registration will also be possible at the clinic once it opens.
The clinic is currently called the Aiken Community Based Outpatient Clinic, but the name is expected to change soon. Currently there is legislation before Congress that would name the Aiken clinic in honor of Marine Cpl. Matthew Dillon, who was killed in action in December 2006 while serving in Iraq.
Contact Josh Voorhees at

Aiken Standard

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