The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that it plans to develop a new outpatient clinic in Serra Mesa to replace and expand its existing facility in Mission Valley.
“Over the years, the demand for outpatient services has continued to grow in the central San Diego area, so we are very happy to be moving forward on this project to expand our ability to meet those needs,” Dr. Robert M. Smith, of the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said in a statement.
The new clinic, which will open in a renovated office complex along Aero Drive, will include almost 100,000 square feet of examination rooms and other space for area military veterans who seek medical and other services on an outpatient basis. The project is expected to cost $22.2 million. The VA said the remodeling work is scheduled to begin in October and will be completed in December 2021.
The new clinic will allow VA staff to expand the services now available to the local veteran community, which surpassed 240,000 last year. “More veterans are coming to VA for care, so having better access for veterans is definitely one of our priorities,” Butler said. The Serra Mesa clinic will be able to expand its core primary care, mental health and specialty care and laboratory services, Butler said. The new complex also will have more than 500 parking spaces.
The new facility will allow the VA to expand into additional services such as an eye clinic, blindness rehabilitation, audiology, podiatry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, prosthetic’s, radiology and pharmacy. It also will feature a gynecology center and women’s clinic. “There will be a lot more services,” Butler said. “It’s double the size of what we currently have so this is going to be a really nice new clinic for the veterans in that area.”
The facility will have about 200 employees, including physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians and mental health providers, among others. The VA San Diego Healthcare System has been working to expand the Mission Valley clinic for more than eight years, Butler said. The VA previously secured funding for an expanded center in Chula Vista, which is expected to open late this year.
In February 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune published a special report
detailing at least 27 local veterans under the age of 45 who took their own lives between 2014 and the end of June 2015. Family members of several suicide victims blamed the VA system, saying it failed to properly diagnose and treat cases of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The investments in veteran healthcare come after years of complaints that services were too often delayed or withheld at VA facilities across the country. Others complained for years that the VA system wrongly delayed medical services, falsified records to reduce backlogs, denied disability benefits or otherwise failed to deliver services earned by American veterans.
Butler said the VA facilities in the San Diego region do not have lengthy wait lists; she estimated that the most a veteran would have to wait for primary care services would be one day. When finished, the new center will be double the size of the current facility on Rio San Diego Drive, and it will handle far more than the 160,000 patient visits Mission Valley’s clinic handles each year and has limited staff and parking, said Cynthia Butler, a spokeswoman for the VA San Diego Healthcare System.