The clock is ticking on Veterans Affairs’ new health clinic scheduled to open next year in Loveland.
“Today marks the 15-month countdown to the opening of the new Northern Colorado Super Clinic,” said medical center Director Paul Roberts. To make the transition as smooth as possible, “we need to start early in amplifying our resources and focusing our efforts on ensuring we continue to provide the best care possible.”
In anticipation of the June 2022 completion, the Cheyenne VA moved most of its Fort Collins primary care patients to its Loveland clinic, 5200 Hahns Peak Drive, on March 1.
Its Fort Collins clinic, 2509 Research Blvd., will expand specialty care such as mental health, audiology, lab, teleheath and surgical consults and become a hub for veterans to get their COVID-19 vaccines. Once the new Loveland clinic opens, the Fort Collins office will close permanently.
Even though the new clinic is still more than a year away, “we’ve learned that you can’t just do it all at once,” said Cheyenne VA spokesperson Samuel House. “You’ve got to plan everything out if you’re moving things, especially health care.
“It is a very synchronized process to move veterans from one health-care clinic to another,” he said. “We’ve got everyone from 100-year-olds to potentially 19-year-olds who could be using these clinics. We’re encouraging people to learn the new routine.”
The Cheyenne VA serves about 20,000 veterans from western Nebraska, Wyoming and Northern Colorado, but that’s about one-third of the 70,000 veterans in the region who are eligible for VA health care, House said. “Our goal is to get every single vet enrolled in VA health care.”
Of the 20,000 veterans using the Cheyenne VA Clinic, about 13,000 are from Larimer and Weld counties. “We’re hoping to see those numbers go up,” he said.
The new $17 million Northern Colorado VA Super Clinic at 4875 Byrd Drive in Loveland is under construction and will be more than twice the size of the current Fort Collins and Loveland clinics combined. Combined, the Loveland and Fort Collins offices see roughly 115 patients per day.
The new clinic will offer expanded services including radiology, X-ray, optometry and dental carefor the nearly 21,000 veterans in Larimer County and 16,500 veterans in Weld County. While nearly 40,000 veterans live in the two counties, the Northern Colorado VA sees about half of the eligible veterans, House said.
The rest, for a variety of reasons, choose to get health care from other providers, he said.
When the new clinic opens, the VA will have about five years left on its lease for the existing Loveland clinic. The health care system hopes to keep that facility and potentially turn into an urgent care and possibly a surgery center, House said.
As the Cheyenne VA prepares for the new clinic, it has named Associate Chief of Staff Dr. William Holland as chief medical officer for Northern Colorado.
Roberts said he hopes to hire 60 additional staff members for a total of 200 employees for the new clinic that will provide primary care, mental health, radiology, dental, physical therapy, social work, laboratory, pharmacy, audiology, optometry and specialty services such as cardiopulmonary and podiatry.
The VA and COVID
As of Monday, the Cheyenne VA has administered 5,320 first doses and 2,800 second doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines through weekly clinics in Fort Collins and Loveland, House said.
The Cheyenne VA was receiving only about 400 vaccines per week but recently received about 200 additional doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine, House said.
Because the J&J vaccine does not require the same refrigeration as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the VA is taking them out to rural areas through a mobile clinic. “The rural locations have been a challenge,” he said. “With the J&J vaccine, we’re hoping to get out there and get them vaccinated. We literally have people living 150 miles away and our goal is to get out to them.”
For those veterans who can’t get to another clinic, the VA will pay for any administrative fee that local pharmacies may charge for the vaccine, House said.
For a virtual tour of the new Northern Colorado VA clinic, visit https://youtube.be/iAlBoUegUBY.
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.