Fleischmann: Two new VA clinics to open in March

Years of lobbying for Veteran's medical care is finally paying off, but it's not the result that some veterans wanted.

Representative Chuck Fleischmann said Friday two new outpatient clinics for veterans will be opening on March 1st in East Tennessee.

In Harriman, a clinic will be located in the Shoppes of Walden Ridge shopping center and operated by contractors Valor Healthcare.

In Athens, a clinic on Decatur Pike will be staffed and operated by the Veterans Affairs office. They will be open three days a week.

"I spoke with Director [Juan] Morales at the VA. He assured me these clinics would be opened on March the 1st to serve the needs of thousands of veterans in East Tennessee," said Rep. Fleischmann (R-District 3).

It's a step that he considers a victory after the VA declined the offer to put a hospital in Roane County.

"I tried very hard to get a full VA hospital in Roane County," he said. "We had a hospital offered to the VA for a dollar and unfortunately the VA declined that offer. As somewhat of a backup what they have offered to do is to have a contract based clinic."

But some veterans are skeptical that outpatient clinics will be enough.

Dr. Ron Higgs, a retired physician and combat veteran, has fought for years to bring a veterans hospital to Roane County.

"We need a place to take care of sick veterans that need to be hospitalized," Dr. Higgs said.

He said a clinic is a step in the right direction, but he believes there is still a need for a more intensive level of care. The VA operated a clinic in Rockwood in years past and closed it due to under staffing.

"The one [clinic] in Rockwood was a dismal failure," Dr. Higgs said.

He also worries about Roane County veterans driving six hours round trip for hospital care. The nearest VA hospitals are in Murfreesboro and Johnson City.

"We have this beautiful facility here for one dollar a year," he said. "Quite frankly it defies reason."


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