NEWPORT, Vt. - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) helped cut a ribbon today at a ceremony marking the opening of a new Newport Outpatient Clinic for veterans.
"As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have worked hard to make sure that Vermont veterans get the quality health care they have earned and deserve," Sanders said. "I am happy to say that we have made significant progress."
In Newport, the new Department of Veterans Affairs clinic opened its doors on June 1. The new, larger facility replaces a clinic housed at the North Country Hospital. "As word spread about the availability of VA services, more and more veterans began to enroll. For some, it was the first time they had ever received health care services from VA," Sanders said.
The senator was joined at the ribbon-cutting ceremony by Newport Mayor Paul Monette, Dr. Michael Mayo-Smith, network director for the VA New England Healthcare System and Marc Levenson, the acting director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at White River Junction, Vt.
Throughout Vermont, about 8,600 veterans now receive care from Vermont's five Community-Based Outpatient Clinics located here in Newport and in Colchester, Brattleboro, Rutland and Bennington.
The clinics, including two new ones in Brattleboro and Newport, operate as satellites of the VA medical center in White River Junction. "That means that in the very northern part of the state and in the very southern part of the state, veterans can get the primary health care they need without having to travel long distances," Sanders said.
The Rutland clinic will soon be moving to a new, larger location closer to downtown. Renovations are currently under way and should be completed by July. The new facility will have nearly 1,000 more square feet of office space than the current location.
The Colchester clinic, the largest in the state, has nearly reached its capacity. Since opening, the patient population and staff have more than doubled. The VA has begun a process that is expected to result by next year in either expanding the clinic at its current location or moving to a larger facility in order to nearly double the current capacity.
Another major change at all of the VA clinics in Vermont is the use of cutting-edge technology known as telehealth. Using secure, encrypted television and computer technology, specialists at White River Junction are treating veterans in rural areas. "Telehealth care is especially beneficial to those veterans who would experience discomfort by traveling a long way to see a provider," the senator said.
Sanders also is excited about the opening later this summer of a new Women Veterans Comprehensive Care Center at the White River Junction VA Medical Center. "The number of women veterans enrolling in the VA health care system has increased dramatically in the last decade, therefore VA is taking aggressive actions to meet their gender-specific health care needs," the senator said.