New Cape VA clinic provides four times the space of old clinic, easier access, more services for local veterans

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Chas Stortz, LPN, shows a primary care/women's clinic room that she uses to see patients at the John J. Pershing Department of Veterans Affairs community based outpatient clinic in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Both administrators and patients are pleased with how a new health clinic for veterans in Cape Girardeau is operating six months after its opening.

Last fall the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs closed its clinic at the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau and opened a larger medical clinic near West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau.

With nearly four times the square footage of its previous location, the new clinic gives doctors and nurses more room to work, said Chuck Hayden, public affairs officer at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, which operates the Cape Girardeau VA clinic.

"At the previous facility we didn't have sufficient exam rooms. Doctors were examining patients in their offices," Hayden said. "This is an overall better space for patient flow."

The Cape Girardeau clinic has 3,000 patients enrolled and has seen an average of 1,100 patients a month since it opened in October, Hayden said.

The John J. Pershing Department of Veterans Affairs community based outpatient clinic is open at 3049 William St. in Cape Girardeau.

The new clinic is easier to get in and out of, especially for those with disabilities. Charlotte Surface of Chaffee, Mo., who dropped off a friend for his appointment Thursday, said that at the old building he had to make a difficult walk with his cane up a long ramp or up stairs.

The new clinic offers a large, flat parking lot with several handicapped parking spaces and ground-level entry.

In addition to providing basic primary care the new clinic also has mental health services, including a psychiatrist and social workers on staff.

A home health service for local veterans is operated out of the new facility as well.

"They go out to visit those veterans who are homebound. They are not critical enough to be in a nursing home, but they still need special care," Hayden said.

Patients at the new clinic say they're pleased with the care they're receiving.

"They've just gotten so modern now," said Ed Kaiser, 86, of Cape Girardeau who received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. "You can even talk to a dermatologist in St. Louis via a computer now."

The clinic recently received a portable X-ray machine and will soon be offering limited radiology services, Hayden said.

"They've done good. I'm alive, and I wouldn't have been otherwise," said Johnny Haupt, 83, who has had two surgeries in the past 10 months at VA facilities. He sees a primary care doctor at the Cape Girardeau clinic and specialists at the VA hospital in St. Louis. Haupt served stateside during World War II.

The VA's goal is to provide health care to veterans within a 30-minute drive of their home, Hayden said. It recently opened a new clinic in Sikeston, Mo., as well.

"There have been a lot of promises made in the past by the federal government to our veterans. The American people feel an obligation to take care of our veterans, especially those injured during active duty," he said.

Medical expenses for veterans disabled during their military service are completely covered by the U.S. government, and other veterans are charged fees based on their income level. The clinic bills private health insurance companies for those veterans who have coverage.

"The American people do want health care for veterans, but the problem is that the government doesn't always give them the health care they need. Some services aren't covered by the government that are covered by private insurance," said Rick Bazzell, 57, a Vietnam veteran of Marble Hill, Mo.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

3051 William St., Cape Girardeau

Map of pertinent addresses

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