VA clinic set to open April 13, officials say

MANATEE — A new clinic here operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is slated to open April 13, officials said Tuesday.

The Bradenton Community-based Outpatient Clinic, 5520 S.R. 64, will replace two local VA clinics, whose last day except for urgent care will be April 8, said Faith Belcher, public affairs officer for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, St. Petersburg.

“It actually opens for business Tuesday, April 13, that’s the first day we’ll be seeing patients, and we’re holding the ribbon-cutting the following week,” she said Tuesday.

As part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony set for 9 a.m. April 19, there will be speakers, such as U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, along with light refreshments and tours of the new facility, she said.

The new clinic, at the intersection of Morgan Johnson Road and S.R. 64, offers 12,455-square feet, a considerable increase in the amount of space currently available, officials said.

When it opens, it will offer expanded primary care teams, a women veterans’ healthcare team, mental health services, referrals to specialty care, pharmacy and social work staff, EKGs, lab services, plus three specialty services yet to come — eye care, dental and basic radiology, such as X-ray and ultrasound, Belcher said.

“It will be the same staff currently working at two locations, approximately 13 staff members,” she said.

“Sometime later this summer, we’ll be adding dental and eye care services and basic radiology; those services won’t be available when we open in April because we’ll still need to furnish specialty equipment and hire the staff to provide services” not currently available at the other clinics, she said.

The clinics that are scheduled to close include the Ellenton Primary Care VA Clinic, 4333 U.S. Hwy. 301 N., and the Bradenton Mental Health Clinic, 5283 Office Park Blvd., officials said.

They will remain open for urgent care only for one day after their official closing date of April 8, while the new clinic will be open for emergencies only on one day before its official opening date of April 13, said Belcher.

The VA signed a lease for the space the clinic occupies at a cost of $299,000 annually at Morgan Johnson Office Park, where the Social Security Administration has also leased new office space.

Plans for the clinic have generated plenty of enthusiasm from local vets. “Everybody’s really excited about it, it’s going to be state-of-the-art,” said Bradford C. Pratt, commander of Bradenton’s Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 18.

“This is really good,” he added. “It really shows that our government, the Veterans Administration, is proactive and they want to bring the technology out to the veterans. A lot of people here have problems making the ride up to Bay Pines.”

For information, consult the Web site http://www.baypines.va.gov/visitors/ellenton.asp, or call (941) 721-0649.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.