WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Negotiations started for construction of a new Wichita Falls VA clinic, outside Sheppard Air Force Base.
The clinic at SAFB was opened around two years ago and the contract is set to expire the summer of 2019.
Donna Ross, the city's VA Clinic nurse manager, said some veterans expressed how difficult getting into the clinic inside the base can be.
"I hear that every single day," Ross said. "It's a real challenge to be on a military installation with all the security requirements. Patients are late getting into the clinic but we still will see everyone even if they're late because of the gate." She said patients are given an escort to enter the base.
Wade Vlosich, Oklahoma City VA Healthcare Medical Center Director, said plans are in less than two years a new one will open in Wichita Falls.
Vlosich said it is still unclear where in the city it will be built or how much it will cost. He said he hopes to take bids soon but he expects it to be bigger, at 10,000 square feet, and offer more resources.
"We're going to have primary care, mental health care, we also have some other services we provide in terms of pharmacy benefits," Vlosich said.
"It would be great to be able to have lab space and to have radiology here in the Wichita Falls area," Ross said.
She said getting people inside the VA Clinic is not the only problem. Ross said at one point there were only two providers to treat around 3,500 veterans.
"We've had to share some of our patients with our sister clinics in the Altus area, Ardmore and even in the Lawton clinic," Ross said.
Vlosich said things are starting to get better.
"We've had some provider shortages but ... we actually recruited a third in that position and we're also interviewing the fourth one right now," Vlosich said. "We're excited about the primary expansion we can have here in Wichita Falls."
"Veterans don't have to go all the way up to Oklahoma City for their health care," Andy Darty, a military veteran said. "This clinic is going to do more than what the present clinic does, hopefully."