By Natalie Fultz
COLUMBUS, GA - The house was packed. Every seat was filled. Vets learned today that the chances of a VA Hospital coming to Columbus in the near future isn't likely.
"The VA looks at the number of veterans in a particular area, the number of veterans in a particular catchments area, in the area that is serviced by a hospital. Our catchments area includes the Columbus area. We have two hospitals. The Tuskegee Hospital and the Montgomery Hospital until 1998 were separate hospitals. You're talking a third hospital in a catchments area that only has 38,000 veterans," James Talton says.
While breaking ground on a VA Hospital won't be happening anytime soon, the plans for a new clinic are in the works.
"I think the majority of the people who are in the Columbus area was hoping that maybe we could get a VA Hospital here," William Miles says.
"If we could get a hospital within a decade or so that would be a wonderful asset, but I'm just not sure the reality of getting that even within ten years is plausible," Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says.
The clinic wouldn't be open until late 2015 or early 2016, but it would be a total of 55,000 square feet.
"As were asking questions about a VA Hospital, the federal government has pulled back on the process of starting a clinic," Tomlinson says.
The news remains devastating for the roughly 16,000 enrolled vets, as they will have to continue traveling to other cities to receive secondary and tertiary care, and while there is a veterans transportation service it still makes it difficult for some to endure the ride.
"People that have family members in the nursing home, and if they are an elderly vet, it becomes a problem for their spouses to get over to see them," Miles says.
According to Talton, as long as nothing changes, the new clinic will be up and running in the North Columbus area in two to three years.
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