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VA center expanding, has plans for more

May 22, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Ann R. Brown, director of the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Millions of dollars worth of construction projects are under way on the campus of the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, with more plans in the works, the director of the medical center said.

"We're looking at our projections for the next eight years and there's a lot of stuff on the books," Ann R. Brown said last week. "It depends on when the money comes."

Brown said the VA's future plans include a 50,000-square-foot expansion of the hospital and long-term care villas on the medical center campus.

Projects already under way or nearing completion are the expansion of the emergency department to more than 5,000 square feet, construction of a health and wellness rehabilitative treatment center, a 33,000-square-foot mental health outpatient clinic, renovations to the community living center, and relocation of the hospital's eye clinic into renovated and expanded space.

Renovations to the hospital entrance recently were dedicated.

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Off campus, Brown said work on a seventh community-based outpatient clinic under the Martinsburg VA Medical Center's umbrella at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., also is under way.

In fiscal year 2009, $27.5 million was awarded for various projects at the center. Brown said the center is receiving about the same amount in the current fiscal year.

Brown said the VA is receiving proposals from private sector entities that would build and operate a transitional housing facility on about 3.3 acres of the campus for homeless veterans. VA officials have said that many of the homeless veterans are returning Iraq war veterans whose re-entry into civilian life has not been successful.

"We don't want to just say, 'You're fine, see ya'," Brown said. "We want to make sure they can sustain what they've gained in treatment."

The project is expected to enable the VA to affect their homeless veterans' ability to find permanent housing and receive the services required for a more successful re-entry into their communities. The deadline for submitting proposals is July 29.

Since being tapped to be the director in January 2008, Brown said she is most proud of efforts to solidify and expand services.

"There are three doctors in this building all the time," Brown said of 24-hour coverage for the emergency department, acute and intensive care. "The challenge is going to be maintaining the high expectations that we have set."

They including growing outreach programs for rural veterans and strengthening mental health programs in the community, she said.

"We really want to reach folks that we haven't been able to get to before because of transportation issues or we didn't have the provider out in the rural community," Brown said.

The Martinsburg VA is available to more than 129,000 veterans in 23 counties in south central Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, eastern West Virginia and northwestern Virginia. Outpatient clinics already are in place in Hagerstown; Cumberland, Md.; Harrisonburg and Stephens City, Va.; and Franklin and Petersburg, W.Va.

"We're getting close to having (adequate) coverage with the (clinics)," Brown said.

The VA is Berkeley County's second largest employer with more than 1,500 full-time employees.

"We can better meet the needs of the veterans we serve and we're serving more veterans with better and higher quality service and we want to keep riding that wave and keep pushing the envelope," Brown said. "A jewel in the mountain is what I call it."

VA center facts



Facts About the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center. All numbers are for fiscal year 2009.

o Inpatient beds -- 566

o Number of veterans treated -- 32,529

o Inpatient patients treated -- 4,568

o Outpatient visits -- 380,102

o Inpatient average age -- 61

o Outpatient average age -- 64

o Health care budget -- $231 million

o Number of full-time employees -- 1,587

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