By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The clinic's new home in Port Angeles has a large waiting room and several exam rooms — including a women's treatment room for the increasing number of women veterans.
The VA projected the new building will allow the clinic to triple the services that can be offered, said Dr. Connie Morantes, director of general medicine at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
“We currently serve less than 10 percent of the veterans on the North Olympic Peninsula,” she said.
“We'd like to get that up to 20 percent.”
On Tuesday, VA employees transferred their medical services to the new offices at 1114 Georgiana St., formerly the home of Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy, and on Wednesday opened the doors for a tour of the facility to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, and several guests.
The newly opened 7,800-square-foot facility replaces the VA clinic's former 1,400-square-foot office located one block away at 1005 Georgiana St.
“It's beautiful. I think about the many veterans we can help here,” Murray said.
Currently, many veterans make the five-hour round trip to Seattle to be seen at the VA hospital only to be told that their appointment has been postponed, she said.
An estimated 14,000 military veterans live in Clallam and Jefferson counties, which, until 2007, had no veterans medical services.
The VA opened the initial clinic in 2007 and quickly outgrew the space.
“We added 200 new veterans every year,” Morantes said.
The clinic now serves about 1,600 and has the space to expand medical services to 2,500 veterans from Clallam and Jefferson counties.
The building is at least large enough to house the VA clinic for at least five years, Morantes said.
The clinic is serving an aging Vietnam veteran population in addition to a growing number of young veterans returning home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
As of Thursday, 17 staff members had moved into the building, with an additional three who will soon join them.
The three new medical staff members who will arrive in the coming months are Dr. David Berndt, an internal medicine physician who will become the second medical doctor at the building, a pharmacist and a nutritionist.
Currently, Dr. Therese Stokan, a family practice doctor, and Steven Walls, a nurse practitioner, provide primary care for the clinic.
All patient and medical offices are on the first floor.
The original clinic offered primary care and social work, and mental health services, which will be expanded in the new clinic.
Mental health services will be located just down the hallway from medical clinic exam rooms, which will help veterans get treatment for issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, for which they might otherwise not seek treatment, Morantes said.
The offices are equipped with telemedicine communication devices, which allows VA doctors and specialists in Seattle to see and treat patients without a five-hour round trip, and home telehealth services, which use telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care.
New facilities and services include a phlebotomy room for drawing blood samples, dietitian services and installed equipment for teleretinal imaging, which screens diabetics for diabetic retinopathy.
The clinic also will offer limited physical therapy services.
Administrative offices are located on the second floor, away from patient-care areas.
It has enough space to bring employees who worked out of their homes into the building, Morantes said.
“We were able to move the home care staff to their own offices,” she said.
Home care staff provide treatment in veterans' homes and do not use the traditional medical offices downstairs.
The clinic's hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information and to make appointments, phone 360-565-7420.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.