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Las Cruces veterans look forward to VA expansion

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- On any typical day, the waiting room at the Las Cruces VA Clinic is filled to the brim.

As the number of patients in Las Cruces continues to grow, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to expand the outpatient clinic.

The VA is currently looking for a building that is roughly 9,000 to 10,000 square feet to move into by next year.

Nicole Lucero, nurse manager at the outpatient clinic, said the Las Cruces VA outpatient clinic saw more than 3,300 patients last year with more than 17,000 visits.

The VA expects that number to continue to climb.

"We definitely have an increase in veteran numbers that are serving in the recent conflicts that we have had," Lucero said.

Lucero said that with a larger facility they hope to add more services - which include a full-time pharmacist, a full-time laboratory, and new physical therapy services.

The new services will allow veterans to seek care in their hometown opposed to having to drive to El Paso or Albuquerque for some special services.
    
Currently when someone has lab work done and they have their blood drawn, that normally gets sent to El Paso," Lucero said. "Hopefully with the new building we'll be able to process some of that ourselves at our own facility," Lucero said.

Administrators add they hope the expansion will ease the wait times for veterans in Las Cruces.
    
"When you have more patients, and you have more services, you need more space," Lucero said. "With the increased number of veterans serving these days, we need the right space and services that are needed for them."

Terry Hertzler, a veteran from Las Cruces, said he looks forward to the new changes that will come with the VA expansion.

Hertzler comes to the VA occasionally for checkups.

"I have some physical problems I've got diabetes and congestive heart failure," Hertzer said. "It's the joys of getting older."

Hertzler said he doesn't have many complaints about the services, but he does wish he and other veterans could get in quicker than they do.

"I had a 10 o'clock appointment and it's almost 11 now," Hertzler said.

Hertlzer said these services are much need for the growing number of veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There are more people coming back that have difficulties and injuries that need much more care," Hertzler said. "Hopefully they'll have more people to work here as well as a larger facility and that will allow them to see people more quickly."

The outpatient clinic on 1635 Don Roser Drive has been serving veterans in Las Cruces since 1994.

Officials with the El Paso VA Health Care System tell KFOX 14 they hope to be moved into their new facility within the next year.

 

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