Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 17, 2014

Mobile clinic: Fight to keep facility just beginning

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The long-awaited mobile clinic for veterans is scheduled to arrive in Mercer County on Thursday, Feb. 13. Keeping it here will be another challenge.

Al Hancock, a local veterans advocate who led a tireless 17-year fight for a Mercer County veterans clinic, says approximately 1,100 veterans will now have to utilize the mobile clinic on a regular basis in order for it to remain in Mercer County. That means veterans from both Mercer and McDowell counties, as well as other parts of southern West Virginia, will have to make use of the facility on a regular basis.

Hancock says more than 3,000 letters, as well as a survey, will be sent out to veterans across the region informing them of the arrival of the mobile clinic on Feb. 13 — and the fact that they will have to utilize the close-to-home clinic in order for it to remain in Mercer County.

“If the clinic is not utilized, it will be taken away,” Hancock added. “That thing is on wheels and I doubt we will ever see it again if we don’t see enough participation.”

Hancock is correct. We, too, strongly encourage all veterans across the region to make use of this new facility. It’s a simple matter now of use it or lose it. Hancock, and veterans across our region, have fought far too long and hard for this facility to risk losing it now. As long as it is utilized — and used on a regular basis by about 1,100 area veterans — it will remain in Mercer County.

At the moment, plans call for keeping the mobile clinic stationed at the Herb Sims Youth Center on Stadium Drive in Bluefield. That’s a good central location for veterans in both Mercer and McDowell counties. Hancock says additional sites are being worked out in the region for the mobile clinic to be stationed at. But the youth center in Bluefield will be the starting point for the facility.

A ribbon-cutting and open-house ceremony will be held Feb. 13 at 11 a.m. for the mobile clinic at the Bluefield site. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who fought for the mobile clinic alongside with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is urging all area veterans to attend the Feb. 13 celebration. Veterans will be able to tour the facility at that time.

“February 13 is truly a big day and a win for area veterans with the scheduled arrival of the mobile clinic in Bluefield,” Rahall said Wednesday. “I look forward to joining all the veterans who helped me make the mobile clinic a reality.”

The mobile health clinic will be an extension of the Beckley VA Medical Center. The fully self-contained mobile center includes two exam rooms, a waiting area and a restroom. Electronic records will be maintained through the use of satellite technology. The clinic will also have one doctor, one RN, a secretary and a driver on staff.

The pending arrival of the mobile clinic to Bluefield is excellent news for veterans across southern West Virginia, and particularly those in Mercer and McDowell counties. It is good to see that the promise made to area veterans is being kept. But it will now be up to veterans across our region to continue the fight.