BY GARY J. KUNICH
One shovel full of dirt for man … one giant construction project for mankind …
Perhaps that might be a bit lofty of a description for the dirt field in the 2800 block of University Avenue in Green Bay that will one day be a mega-Community Based Outpatient Clinic, but it will be rather significant for the 20,000 Veterans who live in and around the area.
After years of planning and some unforeseen delays, the Department of Veterans Affairs will take the next critical step forward in building the clinic with the official groundbreaking, 2 p.m. Oct. 20.
The goal was to break ground as soon as possible so work can continue throughout the winter, and the clinic will open in 2013.
“We are ecstatic to move forward with this construction, so we can continue to deliver the world-class care that Veterans have earned and deserve,” said Robert Beller, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center director, which will provide oversight for the clinic, once it is complete.
Summit Smith, which specializes in building healthcare facilities, will own the building and the 27 acres of land it is built on. That company will lease it to the VA for a 20-year period at a cost of $5.6 million a year.
Operating under a lease allows the VA to continue to plan ahead and offer targeted services where Veterans live.
Once complete, the two-story Green Bay clinic will have 161,525 square feet and 1,200 parking spaces. It will include ambulatory surgery, a specialty clinic, women’s clinic, mental health department and diagnostic imaging.
“It will offer everything short of overnight stays. If you ask the Veterans they’ll tell you it’s something they’ve wanted and is long overdue. It’s something we want to, and we’re very excited,” said Karen Karch, who is currently the clinic manager.
The current Green Bay clinic is only about 11,000 square feet and serves 3,500 patients a year. The new clinic will be able to serve nearly 20,000 Veterans.
“The current facility just isn’t meeting all the demands, so this is going to be huge,” Karch said. “Right now, many of the Veterans in the area have to travel to Milwaukee for their care, or see physicians in the local community. A lot of them don’t want to travel. Plus, if we’re taking care of them for all of their needs it allows for better continuity of care, so we can better help them with all of their healthcare needs.”