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The local Veterans Affairs clinic broke ground this month at Eglin Air Force Base on an expansion project that will increase the clinic’s ability to provide primary care and behavioral health services.

The project is expected to be completed in 18 months and will improve the clinic’s ability to handle the 7,921 patients serviced during fiscal year 2016.

Project leaders throw first shovels of dirt on Jan. 13 to break ground at the Department of Veterans’ clinic expansion project. (Sara Francis/Special to The Pulse)

“This gathering [was] much more than a groundbreaking ceremony, but a testament to our continued, unwavering support to our veteran population,” said Col. Evelyn Yao, 96th Medical Group commander. “This clinic expansion represent the growth and strong foundation of our collaborative relationship.”

The Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System and Eglin’s medical facilities have a resource sharing agreement, which allows the Eglin Hospital to provide VA patient services like dental, general surgery, and urology to name a few. VA patients are most frequently referred to the hospital for orthopedic surgery. Additionally, this partnership reduces the need for veterans to travel to another facility like the Joint Ambulatory Care Center in Pensacola for certain specialty care services, or even to the VA hospital in Biloxi, Miss.

Col. Eveline Yao, 96th Medical Group commander, speaks to attendees at the Veterans’ Affairs clinic expansion ground breaking on Jan. 13 at Eglin VA Clinic. (Sara Francis/Special to The Pulse)

“Veterans really appreciate the ability to stay closer to home and get the care they need and deserve,” said Jerron Barnett, Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System public affairs specialist. “We appreciate the partnership and services that Eglin provides to help us care for our patients.”

Yao said Eglin Hospital treated 2,700 VA outpatients and admitted 130 veterans for inpatient care during FY 2016.

“Eglin continues to strive to be the hospital and ER of choice for our local veterans,” said Yao. “We do this by expanding our services such as our diagnostic heart catheter service, state of the art operating rooms and maintaining clinical staff to support the mission.”

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