Thirty-two years ago, when Kim Shambaugh-Miller started working at Lincoln’s VA facility, it was a clinic and a 200-bed hospital where veterans recovered from surgeries and sickness.
But as health care modernized, the hospital services moved to Omaha, and the large, central building on the Veterans Affairs campus, south of 70th and O streets, became an outpatient clinic only, where veterans visited a doctor, a dentist or a counselor.
Today, Shambaugh-Miller is helping lead the move into a new two-story brick building, a modern outpatient clinic that will serve the 10,000 veterans from the Southeast Nebraska area.
Construction on the clinic, on the northwest edge of the VA campus, is finished and workers are now moving in the computers, the dental chairs, the examination tables, the desks and other furniture.
The Veterans Affairs administration expects to open the new clinic this week, according to Patrick Dawson, assistant director of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System.
One night, the VA will close the clinic in the old building, now referred to as the “legacy building," and the next working day the 250 employees will open the doors to the new clinic. There will be no interruption of services for veterans, Dawson said.
The new clinic has a $46 million price tag for construction, equipment, fixtures and furnishings, Dawson said, adding it is part of a broad plan to renovate or build new VA clinics across the region, serving more than 54,000 Nebraska and Iowa veterans.
Norfolk and Omaha have new clinics; Holdrege, an enlarged clinic; North Platte, new space in a refurbished federal building; and a new clinic is being built in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Staff are excited to move into Lincoln’s new building because it is modern and it improves their ability to take care of patients, said Shambaugh-Miller, nursing director of the Lincoln VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic.
Patients will enter into a large lobby, with a coffee shop to one side and kiosks available for checking in, said Shambaugh-Miller.
Services will be the same as the current VA clinic, but with more room and the latest equipment. There is a dental office, an eye clinic, audiology clinic, a women’s clinic, space for physical therapy, infusion therapy, prosthetics, podiatry, a full-service pharmacy and a mental health clinic.
The clinic includes rooms for telehealth visits, where Lincoln area veterans will work with specialists in Omaha and other parts of the country, and where Lincoln-area specialists can speak with veterans in more rural areas.
After the clinic in the legacy building closes, the VA will haul about 200 tons of fixtures and old equipment from the hospital building before turning it over to the private developer in June, Dawson said.
Developers expect the clinic space in the old VA hospital to eventually house a senior center, offices and services for Aging Partners, the agency that provides services for seniors in Southeast Nebraska.
The developer is also looking at putting some additional apartments in the legacy building, according to George Achola, vice president for Burlington Capital Real Estate, the developer for the VA campus project.
The new clinic is part of a long-range plan to turn the 59-acre VA campus into a multi-use area called Victory Park that is expected to include rental apartments and townhomes, plus other services for veterans and seniors.
A new apartment building for low-income veterans opened in the spring of 2019. In addition to renovations at the old hospital, the developer is hoping to build a new building on the southwest edge of the campus that will serve as a clinic for physicians or offices for other professionals, Achola said.
Johnson Development, a national firm that specializes in VA clinics, partnered with Burlington Capital on the new clinic in Lincoln. B.L. Harbert, an international firm, and Lincoln’s Sampson Construction handled the construction. The federal government will lease the new clinic under a 30-year agreement.
The Victory Park project is a complicated legal arrangement. Lincoln’s Seniors Foundation, a local nonprofit, has a more than 70-year lease on the property from the federal government and agreements with Burlington Capital to develop the campus.