HINESVILLE — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday it has awarded a contract for construction of a new, permanent VA community-based outpatient clinic to SDA Inc., a real-estate developer based in Reno, Nev.
“The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is thrilled to move forward with the design and construction of the permanent Hinesville VA Primary Care Clinic,” VA Public Affairs Officer Tonya C. Lobbestael said. “The new facility will increase our capacity to provide VA’s outstanding medical services to some 7,000 veterans in their community. As the home to Fort Stewart, it is very important to have a VA clinic in the Hinesville area to serve our newest veterans returning from combat and those who have served in previous eras.”
Lobbestael said the nearly 24,000-square-foot facility, which is set to open in 2014, will be on Oglethorpe Highway and Memorial Drive at the site of the old Mills House. A smaller, temporary clinic opened on Gen. Stewart Way in July 2011. It provides primary and mental-health care for about 2,400 veterans.
“They started out planning for a 10,000-square foot facility,” explained Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who said discussions about a permanent VA clinic started in 2008, shortly after he was elected for his first term. “Several of us went down to talk with (U.S.) Sen. (Johnny) Isakson. The (Disabled American Veterans) and (Vietnam Veterans of America) had a full presentation for him. They soon realized Liberty County had more veterans than they realized. I think that was one reason why construction has been delayed.”
Thomas said he had just gotten a letter from the Georgia Department of Veterans Affairs, dated Aug. 20, confirming the number of veterans in Liberty County at 7,160.
“This facility doesn’t include those (active duty) veterans being treated at the Warrior Transition Battalion on Fort Stewart and the new Medical Evaluation Center here in Hinesville,” he said. “We’ve got a mixture of young vets and older vets going back to World War II. This gives them access to health care closer to home.”
According to Lobbestael, the Hinesville clinic will provide primary care, mental health, women’s health, optometry, radiology, select specialty care and transition support. There also will be case management for returning combat veterans.
“VA leadership is meeting with SDA Inc. over the next few months to finalize all design details of the clinic,” she said. “Once the design is finalized, the date to begin construction will be determined. The clinic is being constructed by SDA Inc., and VA will lease the building once it is completed.”