The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to open another outpatient clinic in the Raleigh area to meet growing demand in Wake County and to try to reduce wait times for appointments.
The VA is looking for someplace to lease or build 10,000 square feet of space for a clinic that will offer mental health services and primary care for men and women.
The VA already has a similar outpatient clinic in Raleigh and a second that provides intensive outpatient mental health care. The agency treated more than 12,000 unique patients at the two clinics – many more than once – in the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, an increase of more than 19 percent in the past two years, said Pete Tillman, the facility planner for the VA Medical Center in Durham.
“We are in need of this third Raleigh clinic,” Tillman said.
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The growing demand for veterans health care in Wake County can be seen in the wait times to get an appointment at the Raleigh outpatient clinics.
Nearly 15 percent of appointments at the Raleigh clinics as of Jan. 1 were made more than 30 days in advance, a benchmark of wait times for the VA, according to a database provided on the VA website. That compares to 81/2 percent at the Durham VA and is more than twice the national rate of less than 7 percent.
Meanwhile, the average wait time for a primary care appointment in Raleigh is 21 days, nearly three times the national average, according to the VA.
“It makes sense that when you have more demand for services, you have more wait times,” Tillman said. “This new clinic is going to make meeting that challenge a lot easier, because we’re going to have the space to provide that care.”
The Durham VA Medical Center is one of four in the state and serves 27 counties from the Triangle to the coast. In addition to the main hospital, the Durham VA oversees eight other medical facilities, including a dialysis clinic and rehabilitation clinic for the blind, both in Raleigh’s Brier Creek.
The new Raleigh clinic will have five patient care teams, consisting of a doctor or nurse practitioner plus a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse and an administrator. The new teams will allow the VA to see up to 3,600 additional patients in Raleigh, Tillman said.
It’s still early in the process for establishing the new Raleigh clinic. Last month, the VA sought inquiries from property owners and developers. The agency hopes to establish the clinic somewhere within a six-mile radius of the intersection of New Bern Avenue and Raleigh Boulevard.
There’s no firm timetable; the agency still must select a site, put the project out to bid and get it built. But the VA wants to do it as soon as possible, Tillman said.
“We are looking to stand this clinic up quickly,” he said. “We know we need it.”