VA Clinic to open Veterans Day

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2011 - 8:10 PM

After a decade of hoping and waiting, the clinic in Ramsey will save vets the time and expense of lengthy trips to see a doctor.

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Local officials including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, second from left, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar broke ground in November 2010 for a new VA community-based outpatient clinic in Ramsey.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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Dennis Berg has blood tests done every three months. The tests take minutes, but the trip to and from the doctor's office takes half the day.

A Vietnam veteran and former Anoka County Board chairman, Berg used to drive nearly 70 miles to the VA medical center in St. Cloud for treatment. But soon, Berg and other veterans in the northwestern suburbs will be able to seek treatment at the new outpatient clinic that will open in the city of Ramsey on Nov. 15.

"This is such a convenience, a dream come true for veterans," said Berg, who retired from politics less than a year ago, not long after the clinic's groundbreaking last fall. "We veterans have waited a long time for this."

They waited through a decade of fits and starts, as cities and counties competed for the project. Bids and then more bids were submitted, and timetables were pushed back. Now, the 20,000-square-foot state-of-the-art clinic will be dedicated on Friday -- Veterans Day -- and will serve veterans in Anoka, Sherburne, Isanti, Wright, Mille Lacs and western Hennepin counties.

The clinic will be staffed and managed by the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Its services will include primary care, mental health care, eye care, dental care and audiology.

Its mere presence offers veterans a sense of relief.

"There is a sense of security knowing that your primary health provider is now minutes away," Berg said. "For veterans in Anoka County, in Sherburne County, who once felt like our care was remote, this has us feeling like we're so much more a part of the VA system."

Room to build

Jim Deal, who outbid and outlasted dozens of other developers who went through a lengthy application process to build the clinic, may not be finished.

There is plenty of space within the building for a dialysis unit, with an entire second floor available for ancillary businesses that can be brought in. As indicated by the 40-by-30-foot American flag and Thunderbird planes on tap to fly overhead at the dedication, Deal likes to think big.

"It's a big facility, bigger than most of the clinics the VA has built across the country," he said. "The feedback we're getting from veterans is great. In this case, bigger will be better."

The city of Ramsey is hoping the veterans clinic will lead to better things for its COR development project. Much of the 320 acres of the former Ramsey Town Center project remain vacant. But the sparkling new clinic and an expected station along the Northstar commuter rail line should help anchor a city project that may finally change the landscape along Hwy. 10 in Ramsey after years of false starts and broken dreams.

Friday's dedication is open to the public and includes tours.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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