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20120815 VA-Clinic-Ground-Breaking-Ceremony-CAB 8266Sen. Eddie Lucio, Rep. Henry Cuellar, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Ruben Hinojosa join local and health care leaders and veterans Wednesday in the groundbreaking of the new VA Outpatient Clinic in McAllen Wednesday. Progress Times photo by Carina A. BrunsonMcALLEN – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rep. Henry Cuellar, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, Senator Eddie Lucio and State Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr. joined City of McAllen officials this week for the groundbreaking of the new McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic. The new clinic will be located on the northeast corner of Hackberry Ave. and North McColl Road.

Expected to open next summer, the 58,700 square foot facility will double the size of the current 27,700 square foot facility in McAllen. The $20 million clinic will provide extended primary care services and outpatient specialty care. Laboratory, radiology, mental health, nutrition, podiatry, social work, women’s health, and pharmacy services will be provided at the clinic.

“Residents of the Valley will not have to drive to San Antonio,” said Hutchison. “This has started the process to the final goal, getting a hospital in this area,” continued Hutchison.

Hinojosa said this is the final piece of the puzzle to getting a full service VA hospital in the area. He also said the facility will create over 200 construction jobs. Legislators have finally been able to make things happen for the Valley by getting more care for veterans to the area, he added.

“It means better medical services and it means we will be able to push that legislation that is in Washington right now for the last phase to create an emergency room and 30 beds as an expansion to the medical facility that we opened a year and a half ago in Harlingen,” said Hinojosa. “We need the emergency room and we’re going to make it happen.”

Cuellar told those in attendance the new VA clinic is a win-win for the Rio Grande Valley. The facility will bring jobs, better services for our veterans, and it brings a sense of community, “We can take care of our own,” said Cuellar.

About 95 percent of the care which veterans presently obtain in San Antonio, will be available at the new facility, he said. Families will save on gas and won’t have to be away for so long with services this close to home.

“The large geographic area of Hidalgo County places difficult travel barriers between many veterans and full service hospitals, which makes outpatient clinics like this one all the more important,” said Cuellar.

Robert M. Walton, director at VA Texas Coastal Bend Health Care System, said this is an important project for McAllen area veterans.

“Doubling the size of the McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic will allow us to maintain and expand VA health care services, and those two goals are very important to our Rio Grande Valley veterans and very important to me,” said Walton.

Violeta Garcia, Edinburg, Honor Guard with Post 8788, said veterans traveling from Rio Grande City and Zapata will now have a closer clinic for services.

“I hope that we are going to have the whole benefit here in McAllen,” said Garcia.

20120815 VA-Clinic-Ground-Breaking-Ceremony-CAB 8288An artist's rendering of the new VA Clinic.There are a lot of female veterans that are lacking services because they have to wait a long time before receiving the services they need, she said.

Felix Ramirez, a Mission resident, was very happy to see a bigger clinic will be built for veterans to receive medical services. Ramirez said he is retired Navy and served in the Air Force during Vietnam. He said he visits the current McAllen clinic for primary care, but travels to Harlingen for special services.

The present clinic is very crowded, said Ramirez. There is too many of us. “It’s a blessing that we’re getting this,” said Ramirez. Maybe with the new clinic we will get additional services.

“I am very pleased that someone listened. It is fair time that we are finally getting that help that we much need.”

Ramirez looks forward to the possibility of earlier appointments, less travel time, and less waiting.

“I’m looking forward to it. That we will come here and get our medical needs, for us, for the future veterans that are coming in, and also for our older veterans, our Korean, and our World War II veterans which need a lot of help,” said Ramirez. “We are definitely going to appreciate a bigger place.”

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