Veteran's clinic to open Friday

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Bart Taylor, a physicians assistant in Grand Junction, visits with patient Richard Shelton, of Phippsburg, during a test of the Craig Community Telehealth Clinic on Monday. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.

Friday's ribbon-cutting/dedication ceremony signaling the opening of a Craig Community Telehealth Clinic, a health care offering for area veterans, is the culmination of 15 years of work, said Bill Harding, Moffat County Veterans Service Officer.

Those efforts were doubled in the past eight to 10 years, he added.

"Sen. Ken Salazar met with the outgoing head of the Veteran's Administration, Jim Nicholson, and they got it taken care of at that meeting," Harding said.

The clinic will be a prototype for rural telehealth clinics that may be established across the country if the Craig office proves successful, he said.

David Newman, a full-time registered nurse, will staff the clinic along with Robbie Fentress, a part-time registered nurse and Colorado Northwestern Community College nursing program graduate.

The telehealth clinic allows patients to consult with clinic staff in person and with doctors from Grand Junction via video conference.

Blood draws and other minor medical procedures can be performed locally under a doctor's supervision without requiring a drive to Grand Junction.

Several diagnostic tests can be plugged into the video link, relaying information directly to the doctor.

The clinic is available to all veterans enrolled in the VA Healthcare Program on an appointment basis.

The clinic will not accept walk-in patients.

Veterans can enroll in the program by visiting Harding at the Colorado Workforce Center, 480 Barclay St., and filling out a form.

Good response to the clinic could result in increased care for local veterans, Harding said. "If the use goes up, we could go to a full-time facility," he said. "That could lead to getting a doctor on site in the future."

A number of special flu-shot and blood-work sessions will be scheduled for veterans using the service.

Harding reminded visitors that the clinic is not an emergency care clinic.

"In an emergency, veterans should visit The Memorial Hospital and let them know they are receiving care from the VA health clinic," he said. "That way there may be some financial assistance from the Veterans Administration."

An estimated 400 veterans in Northwest Colorado are qualified to receive treatment from the clinic, Harding said.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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