by: Kristy Wolski Updated:
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Veterans packed the St. Augustine Elks Lodge Thursday evening to voice concerns about the Department of Veterans Affairs' community based outpatient clinic.
The clinic is located at the Health and Human Services complex, but St. Johns County has sold the property to Lowe’s. The VA has known about the sale since 2011, but has yet to secure a new location for the clinic. With the March deadline now getting closer, veterans fear they could lose services if a new location is not secured soon. Bill Dudley is chairman of the Veteran’s Council of St. Johns County.
“Many of our veterans in St. Johns County, this is their primary healthcarehealth care is the clinic,” Dudley said. “So we’re very concerned about that.”
VA Outpatient Clinic Director Nick Ross spoke to vets at Thursday’s meeting, assuring them they will not lose services in St. Johns County. “You will have health care here in St. Johns County and that’s my pledge to you as a veteran to veterans,” Ross said.
Ross told them the VA is considering new locations. He even showed them a rendering of the facility’s future layout. However, he said a contract is still at least a month and a half away and construction of a new facility could take about a year.
“I’m concerned I’m going to lose my CBOC here in St. Augustine,” said Shawn Prentiss, a veteran. “That I’m going to lose access to my health care here and that I’m going to have to drive to either Jacksonville or Gainesville.”
Ross assured veterans they will not have to drive out of the county for services. He said the VA will either pay Lowe’s to stay in the current location or the VA will secure a temporary facility. To rent from Lowe’s would cost more than $50,000 a month.