Veterans Welcome New VA Clinic in the Permian Basin

Veterans Welcome New VA Clinic in the Permian Basin

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

ODESSA - The VA has opened up a new outpatient clinic in the Basin. According to officials with the West Texas VA Health System, the number of veterans in the area has steadily been rising so this facility is a response to that demand.

On Monday, veterans and community members were invited for a sneak preview of the facility.

"I think we sent a little over 3,000 letters to some of our veterans, telling them that we'd have an open house today (Monday) and hope that they'd come out and take a look. What's even better is the smiles that we're seeing today," Michael Kiefer, Director of the West Texas VA Health System, said.

The center located off of Highway 191 and Faudree Road in Odessa has replaced the former VA clinic in the city and vets are thrilled.

"It was long overdue. I'm very anxious to see how it can help all the veterans in our area," John McKee, a Vietnam Veteran said.

McKee had been going to the old place for about four years and according to him, "It's like night and day that place to this place."

The clinic will offer expanded services to veterans, which before they were added, forced many patients to travel farther.

"And when you're on a fixed income, that means a whole lot," Korean War Veteran, Gale Holliman, said.

Additional services include an audiology center, where currently twice a week, an audiologist can test veterans' hearing in a sound proof room. There's also a nutrition program that teaches diabetics how to cook healthy meals. Mental health, women's health, physical therapy and optometry are also offered.

"They can also do things like they'll take pictures of your eye and send it to a doctor in Albuquerque, and the doctor in Albuquerque will review those pictures and get back to the VA center here right away and let you know what the problems are, if any," McKee said.

Plus the building is one of the only VA clinics in the region that has been specially designed as a leader in green energy. It has a gold interior and silver exterior rating, which basically means it's in a league of its own in terms of preserving water and reducing expenses with utilities. 

"The money that the VA is not spending on power and electricity can be put towards the veterans," Samuel Hagins, who's an Energy Engineer for the West Texas VA Systems, said.

Korean War Veteran, Herbert Walker, said the facility is definitely beautiful, and that, "it will be a lot better if they can staff it."

Officials have said that the West Texas System has a shortage of about 40 workers across the board but they're making steps to mitigate those effects.

For example, the outpatient clinic is staffed with three full time PACT's or teams that collaborate and treat each patient. They're comprised of a physician, registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse and physician support assistant. There's also space in the clinic for another team. Any other gaps in provider shortages are filled with the TeleHealth service where doctors can use video and other means to treat patients who may not be in the same vicinity.

Kiefer said he doesn't believe it will affect the quality of care the veterans receive.