NORTH SIOUX CITY -- Since the new Veterans Affairs clinic opened in November in Dakota Dunes, VA officials say they've noted an increase in patients.
The new clinic at 365 W. Anchor Drive replaces an aging facility in the Indian Hills Shopping Center on Sioux City's north side. The Dakota Dunes building is three times the size of the former VA clinic, at just shy of 25,000 square feet.
Dr. Donna Small, chief of community-based outpatient clinics for the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System, said the new clinic is now serving more than 4,700 veterans, but has the capacity to provide medical care to more than 7,000 veterans from Northwest Iowa, Northeast Nebraska and Southeast South Dakota.
"This clinic is a prime example of America's commitment to that veteran who has served," Small said, before leading members of the media on a tour of the contemporary style space with modern features and high-tech equipment. "It's built so it can add services. We're constantly looking at potentially adding services."
The large, open waiting room features neutral tones, a self-check-in kiosk and military memorabilia encased in glass. Framed photographs of wildlife and rural scenery decorate the walls in the waiting room, hallways and exam and procedure rooms. A patient handling system informs the medical team when patients arrive and it provides status updates throughout the appointment process to streamline care. Flat-screen monitors are scattered throughout the clinic to keep staff informed.
Exam rooms and procedure rooms are located off two long hallways on each side of the clinic. Patients enter the rooms from one entrance and staff through the other. Medical providers and staff are stationed in the center of the clinic, which uses a team-based care model known as PACT (Patient Aligned Care Team), which focuses on wellness and disease prevention. The PACT team consists of a medical provider, an RN coordinator, a licensed practical nurse and a medical support assistant (MSA), who is responsible for handling clerical duties.
"Even though it's a very big facility, you can alert people," Small said. "When a provider walks out of the room, they can hit a button to alert the MSA, for instance, to come in and give (the patient) their after-visit summary."
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The clinic also boasts a laboratory, physical therapy area and mental health rooms, which have both a door and a window -- two exits -- to accommodate veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Mental health is a top priority now, as it should be," said Renee Fagen, a psychologist who works at the clinic. "One of the things that we do down here is provide evidenced-based therapy for trauma. It's really wonderful because people can truly work through those traumas."
Small said the clinic is looking to hire an audiologist to perform hearing checks in the audiology booth and an optometrist to do on-site eye exams, which will alleviate some of the need for patients to travel to Sioux Falls.
Dr. Ray Mangulabnan, the clinic's medical director, said the clinic will add radiology services when the number of patients the clinic serves reaches 5,000. An empty space is already reserved for medical imaging equipment.
"It's like a big house that we're still trying to move into," he said. "We've been waiting for this for quite a number of years."
Although all the subspecialists that a patient may require won't be physically under one roof in Sioux City, Small said patients can connect with them via telehealth.
"If we've got a camera and a computer, we can usually get them connected to the right subspecialty or the right provider," she said.
How veterans who used Sioux City Transit buses to get to the Indian Hills Clinic will travel to North Sioux City remains up in the air. The new clinic sits more than 1½ miles away from the nearest city bus stop.
Sioux Falls VA Health Care System public affairs officer Shirley Redmond acknowledged that the VA is still trying to figure that out.
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