GALLIPOLIS — After nearly two years of the tireless promotion and advocacy for increased health care services at the Gallipolis VA Clinic, local veterans groups and members of the Gallia County Veterans Service Office were pleased with the recent announcement of the increase in hours at the clinic in Gallipolis.
The Gallipolis VA Clinic was opened in September 2010, following years of support from area veterans groups, and was dedicated amid fanfare from local dignitaries a month later.
Since that time, the facility, located at 323A Upper River Road behind the Super 8 Motel in Gallipolis, has remained a two-day-a-week facility and has been open to area veterans only on Tuesday and Thursday each week.
A recent announcement from the VA Medical Center in Huntington, the parent agency of the clinic, indicates that, beginning next month, the Gallipolis location will be open an additional two days per week and will be accessible on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
“We are pleased that the time has come to expand our operating hours and physical space at the Gallipolis VA Clinic,” Edward Seiler, director of the Huntington VA Medical Center said in a recent statement. “Beginning October 9, 2012, the clinic will be open four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to ensure that we are able to meet the increased demand for services in southern Ohio.”
Dick Moore, who serves on the Gallia County Veterans Service Commission as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) representative, not only spoke of his satisfaction with the recent announcement, but also the resolve of the service commission to continue to push for more and better local services for veterans at the Gallipolis clinic.
“We are very happy, but we are not stopping at four days a week,” Moore said.
According to Moore, the initial understanding between officials with the Huntington VA Medical Center and the local veterans service office was that the limited hours of operation would only be a temporary arrangement.
“We opened the clinic and we had the understanding that when we reached so many members or clients there, that they would open it more than two days a week,” Moore explained. And, while an exact number cannot be provided by the VA in Huntington, it is estimated that approximately 1,000 veterans from not only Gallia, but also Meigs, Mason and other surrounding counties have registered for services at the Gallipolis clinic location.
The influx of registered veterans can attributed, in part, to the relocation of the Gallia County Veterans Service Office next to the clinic last December.
The office had previously been located on Jackson Pike and the veterans service officials decided to make the move to spur greater use of the VA clinic.
“We feel that moving our veterans service office next to the VA clinic has not only helped our work load, but we are able to serve veterans better right beside the clinic,” Moore said.
The veterans service officers, in their new office space, were quick to send veterans receiving services through their office who were also seeking health care information, next door to the clinic — an effort that payed off.
According to Moore, the need for additional hours at the two-day-a-week facility became very apparent over time as the accumulation of patients meant longer waiting times for the many veterans utilizing the facility.
“This is a blessing because there have been times that’s there’s been a back log. They won’t turn anybody away on the two days a week, but if you are walk-in, you have to wait, and that discourages veterans. They don’t want to go back because they don’t know if they will get waited on,” Moore said.
“If you open it up four days a week, it’s much better on the walk-ins, it’s much quicker to get an appointment with the doctor and there will be a doctor in the office, on-call, four days a week,” he said.
The clinic will continue to provide primary care outpatient services. Any patients requiring specialty services are referred to the Huntington VA facility.
The Gallia County Veterans Service Office currently provides transportation to the Huntington facility each Monday for veterans who have been referred to the VA hospital.
In a recent statement issued by Deborah Brammer, public affairs offices at the VA Medical Center in Huntington, plans for expanding the facility have also been announced by VA officials.
The renovations will include the addition of new space for specialty care services that will be available through Telehealth conferencing with providers at the Huntington facility, according to Brammer.
In addition, an enrollment fair will be held at the clinic on October 12, 2012, from 1 to 4 p.m. The fair will offer area veterans the opportunity to determine their eligibility for VA health care. Veterans wishing to enroll should bring their military discharge papers (DD214). Flu shots will also reportedly be available at this event.
For more information about eligibility and enrollment, veterans may contact the enrollment office at the Huntington facility at (304) 429-6741, ext. 3459, 2490 or 2496 or toll free at (800) 824-8277.
To schedule an appointment at the Gallipolis VA Clinic, veterans can contact the clinic directly at (740) 446-3934.
For more information about services provided locally through the county’s veterans service office, call (740) 446-2005.