Iowa City VA Health System opens new Burlington VA Outpatient Clinic
More than 100 veterans and community members gathered Tuesday in the parking lot outside 1000 N. Roosevelt Ave. to witness a ribbon cutting ceremony of the soon-to-open Burlington VA Outpatient Clinic.
The primary care clinic, which will officially open Monday, will mean easier access to health care for southeast Iowa veterans, many of whom have had to travel to Iowa City, Quincy, Illinois, or Galesburg, Illinois, to be seen at a VA healthcare facility.
“This being right here is just going to be phenomenal,” said Rick Belville of Burlington, a veteran of both the Marines and the Air Force.
Prior to the pandemic, Belville said, he would go to the Iowa City VA hospital three or four times a year for appointments. For every appointment since 1998, he would have to take a day off from work due to travel time.
“Having this here, I’m not going to have to take up my whole day,” Belville said.
Nearby, veterans lined up at a table offering transfer of care forms.
“This is long overdue,” David Goosey of Burlington, who served a short stint as a Marine combat medic in Vietnam before being transferred to a Navy ship, said while waiting in line to get a form to transfer his care to the Burlington VA clinic. “If you ever try to get into Iowa City, it’s a zoo. It takes me a couple of months to get in.”
Also in line was Grover Crail of Burlington, an Army Vietnam veteran. Crail said he finally had transferred his care from the Iowa City VA to local doctors.
Crail, who, like many war veterans, quickly is able recite exactly how long he served — “four years, nine months and 28 days — suffers from ephysema, but doesn’t know if smoking or exposure to Agent Orange is the cause. He said the constant change of pulmonary care providers at the Iowa City VA frustrated him, and his appointments kept “getting pushed back.” He finally switched due to “lack of continuity of care,” and, “the 160-mile round trip” made getting treatment all the more difficult. Before signing up Tuesday, Crail said, first, “I want to see what they have to offer.”
‘We’ve been talking about this clinic for years’
Iowa City VA Health Care System, which is operating the clinic, long has seen the need for a Burlington location, said ICVAHCS Director Judy Johnson.
“We’ve been talking about this clinic for years, so to finally see it come to fruition is an amazing opportunity for the veterans in this community,” Johnson said. “Veterans on both side of this river … have driven to Galesburg, to Quincy, to Iowa City, and now we can meet those needs in the Burlington area with real-time access, with real-time care delivery for you in this community.”
Johnson said there are about 5,000 veterans living in and around the Burlington area, and the ICVAHCS now serves about 3,000.
Brooke Marland works for the Des Moines County Veterans Affairs Office, which offers claim filing services to local veterans in addition to other services including transportation to health appointments in Iowa City and rent and utility assistance but does not schedule health appointments or arrange for transfer of care. Marland said there are 3,200 registered veterans living in Des Moines County, though she believes the true number to be higher.
The clinic provides easier healthcare access for veterans
Brooke Ballard, who provides rapid rehousing and homeless prevention programming for veterans in seven southeast Iowa county’s through the Salvation Army’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families, said traveling 80 miles for a health appointment can deter veterans from getting the services they need.
“It creates a huge barrier for veterans if they don’t have transportation, especially for homeless individuals, getting an hour-and-a-half away,” Ballard said. “This will be a good opportunity for them to more easily access healthcare.”
The Burlington clinic will have one primary care provider, one mental health provider, two registered nurses and one health care technician. It will serve an estimated 1,200 veterans inititially, but there is room for growth.
Jason Kirk, eligibility enrollment supervisor for ICVAHCS, said physicians and staff may be added in the future depending on the level of need.
“Depending on the need or the response from the community, if they start getting scheduling blocks where they have more veterans, then they’ll be able to get more staff,” Kirk said. “This is a good feeler to see exactly how many veterans will utilize primary care in this area.”
Dr. Victor Mizrachi, who became the chief of staff at ICVAHCS at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, said the opening of the Burlington clinic will allow veterans to more easily and quickly get caught up on care that has been delayed by COVID-19.
“It came to the attention of the Iowa City VA Health Care System that there was a need for a clinic in the Burlington area. We are here today to address that need,” Mizrachi said. “We know that there are many veterans in the Burlington area who have delayed tests and visits with their provider due to the pandemic. Now we will be providing these services at a local clinic to ensure timely healthcare in person or via telehealth.”
Mizrachi further reminded those attending that the clinic will host a Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday for veterans and their family members and caregivers who are not yet vaccinated.
“The legacy of the Burlington clinic will be the hope that it brings to this community at a time we are all desperate to put COVID-19 behind us and live our best lives forward,” Mizrachi said.
The Burlington VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1000 N. Roosevelt Ave., Suite 7, in Burlington. Beginning next week, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays.
Phone calls to schedule patient appointments will begin Monday.
Veterans with an honorable discharge who are interested in receiving care at the Burlington clinic can sign up by calling the dedicated enrollment number, (877) 222- VETS.