By Lauren Brown
About two years after a public meeting in which Harney County veterans made certain that their outcry for a clinic of their own in Burns was heard, that clinic has blossomed into fruition.
The Burns-Hines Veterans Administration (VA) Clinic officially opened in the newly remodeled Racine Building on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Clinic Manager and social worker Steve Bull said that though they are still in the process of moving in, the clinic is operational.
The new clinic consists of three exam rooms, a blood draw room, mental health office and a group meeting room. A minor procedure room has the equipment to perform EKG scans as well as bladder scans.
The Racine Building also houses the hospital’s sleep clinic and in the future, will contain the Home-based Primary Care program in which medical personnel will travel to rural parts of the county to care for patients.
Burns-Hines VA Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick and LPN Diane Brinkley see patients each Monday and Tuesday.
Registered Nurse Steve Hagan sees patients Monday through Friday, which Bull said extends the clinic’s ability to handle medical questions when Dr. Fitzpatrick is not there.
Bull said that most of the clinic’s lab tests are sent to Boise for processing, though if there is an urgent problem with a patient, those labs can be sent to Harney District Hospital for a quicker turn around.
In the same vein, patients requiring X-rays or other services are referred to the Boise VA Clinic, unless there is an urgent need. In those cases, tests can be done at Harney District Hospital with approval from the Boise VA.
In addition to offering medical and mental health services, the clinic also offers health education programs to help veterans lose weight, stop smoking and learn about diabetes.
In October 2007, representatives from the VA visited Burns to see how much interest there was in starting a clinic here. Burns was one of several sites under consideration. The representatives expected a turnout of six to 10 veterans and were surprised when more than 200 showed up to voice support for a local clinic.
As a result, the Burns clinic was created and started seeing patients in September 2008 at the High Desert Medical Center.
Now, with the Racine Building remodeled to fit the specifications of the VA clinic model, Harney County veterans have a clinic of their very own. “A lot of veterans have been waiting for this clinic to exist,” Bull said. “There are a lot of things that the local doctors can handle.”
Having local care available eliminates some of those long trips to Bend or Boise, which is convenient especially in the winter time.
“This is a big thing in the community in terms of taking care of people and honoring veterans,” Bull said.
The Burns-Hines VA clinic is located in the Racine Building at 271 N. Egan in Burns. For more information, veterans can call the clinic at 541-573-3339.