New clinic is a step in right direction

Friday, October 19, 2007

It’s estimated that a thousand World War II veterans pass away every day, but with thousands more veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan coming through the system, health care for veterans will continue to be a major concern for generations to come.

A project announced by Sen. Ben Nelson on Thursday is a step in the right direction.

Nelson announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs had selected a lot in Holdrege, along Highway 283, as the site for a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

It should be easy for the strawberry limeade fans among us to find, as it is on the lot next to the Holdrege Sonic restaurant.

The clinic will provide primary care and mental health services closer to home for thousands of veterans who are now having to drive many hours to receive such care " if they receive it at all.

Contractors hope to begin construction of a 5,700 square-foot facility this fall. Two doctors now working at the Grand Island VA facility, Dr. Gary Vandewege as primary care physician and Dr. Chanel Helgason as mental health psychiatrist, will provide services in Holdrege.

The facility will have multiple exam rooms, video conferencing services for group and specialty clinics, and a minor procedure room.

“This is great news for Nebraska veterans,” Nelson said. “The facility will serve up to 2,800 veterans each year, and will allow them to seek treatment in their hometown without having to travel great distances for routine appointments. This helps to fulfill the promise that this country should honor those who serve,” he said.

Nelson said he was hopeful more new clinics could be opened more smoothly and without delay.

He announced that three other Community Based Outpatient Clinics had been approved in our region, in Norfolk and Bellevue as well as Shenandoah, Iowa.

Yes, the new clinic in Holdrege is progress in providing the services veterans need and deserve, especially in mental health services, an area that has been neglected in the past. The clinic should save countless hours for veterans in Southwest Nebraska who have had to travel much farther in the past.

But the new clinic should be seen as part of an ongoing process and not an end in itself.

Taking care of the people who carry out our national policies must be considered part of the cost of the decision to set those policies.

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