Several hundred veterans and other guests gathered Friday for a health clinic dedication in Modesto that featured speeches, a Purple Heart ceremony and a vintage warplane flyover.
The Department of Veterans Affairs showed off its 23,250-square-foot outpatient center at 1225 Oakdale Road, which is double the size of the VA clinic on McHenry Avenue. The new clinic will open for patients Feb. 27.
Veterans said they were impressed with the 20 exam rooms, a well-equipped occupational therapy unit and facilities for video-based Internet appointments with specialists in other cities.
Since 1998, the Modesto VA health clinic has shared the building at 1524 McHenry Ave. with other medical offices.
Lionel Whiting of Modesto said it was hard getting to the upper-floor clinic after he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side.
"Now that it's on the ground floor, it will be a lot easier," said Whiting, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam.
Friday's ceremony was the culmination of a two-year construction project by California Gold Development Corp. of Sonora. The Department of Veterans Affairs has an agreement to lease the privately owned building for 10 years.
Republican Congressman Jeff Denham delivered the keynote speech and pinned a Purple Heart on Modesto native Joseph Jackson, a Navy hospital corpsman who was injured in Iraq in 2006.
Former Marine aviator Vince Nastro flew over in his privately owned T-34 Mentor with former Marine Sgt. Randall Reyes as honorary co-pilot. Reyes, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran, is an outreach specialist for the Modesto Vet Center.
Formally called the Modesto Community Based Outpatient Clinic, the facility will provide medical and mental health services for about 8,500 patients. The services will include general medicine, radiology, phlebotomy, physical and occupational therapy, mental health and home-based primary care.
Veterans also will use the center for routine immunizations, limited hearing-aid repair and speech therapy. A 44-member staff of health care professionals and administrative employees will run the spacious clinic.
To bridge the gap between valley patients and VA medical specialists in the Bay Area, the clinic will hold sessions in which doctors confer with patients over video-based Internet links. The VA has telemedicine for patients with urological problems, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric disorders, complex trauma injuries and sleep disorders.
Dale Webster, commander of American Legion Post 74 in Modesto, said the clinical services should be an improvement for local veterans. As a greater variety of health care is offered in the valley, veterans will make fewer trips to see doctors at clinics in Livermore and Palo Alto.
"A lot of disabled veterans don't have the transportation," Webster said.
Jerry Humphrey, a Manteca resident who served for nine years in the Marine Corps, said the video-based sessions with doctors should be beneficial for Modesto patients. Two weeks ago, a specialist in Palo Alto told him about using a device for sleep apnea through a connection with the French Camp clinic in San Joaquin County.
"It's the way to go for people who don't live near a facility," Humphrey said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.