Community clinic keeps Searcy-area veterans close

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published November 8, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 7, 2012 at 10:15 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Sydney Baker, right, an X-ray technician, demonstrates the use of a digital retina imaging system on Carolyn Smith at the community-based outpatient clinic for veterans in Searcy.

— The 50-mile drive from Searcy to Little Rock may be easy for some, but for older veterans seeking medical care, the distance can be daunting.

But instead of driving to the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System’s main facilities in Little Rock or North Little Rock, veterans can stop by the local community-based outpatient clinic in Searcy (one of eight in the state) for their medical care. With pharmacists, nutritionists, X-ray services, the ability to draw lab work, mental-health services and more available on-site, the clinics cut down considerably the need for patients to take long trips to the main hospital.

Some procedures — surgeries, for example — still have to be done in Little Rock, but advances in tele-health care services mean more consultations can happen on-site, thanks to machines that can instantly transmit data from patients in Searcy to doctors in Little Rock.

“You have the ability to see the provider on a screen, and the provider can see you, and you have a two-way conversation,” said Jennifer Petersen, clinical coordinator for the health care system. “There’s equipment that will actually project lung sounds, heart sounds, look at your ear or your throat, and the doctor can visualize it from where they are.”

The Searcy clinic has from 30 to 50 patients come through the door every day, whether for blood work, a monthly appointment or just to chat. Some come from as far as Batesville for services at the clinic. Patients, both men and women, range in age from 18 to 99.

“This is their hometown clinic,” said clinic nurse Carolyn Smith, one of 13 paid employees on staff. “They may drop by to just say, ‘I didn’t get to see you last time because you were on vacation.’”

Smith says the clinic coordinates with area hospitals, pharmacies, assisted-living programs and home-health programs to make sure local veterans are getting the care they need. The clinic also helps with veterans outreach at community centers, fairs and homeless-veterans events — anything that can be done to get the word out on the clinic. While many veterans have heard of its services, many haven’t taken that next step to enroll.

“All they have to do is go and ask,” said Miles Brown, public affairs officer for the health care system.

Of the more than 200,000 veterans in the state of Arkansas, 65,000 veterans utilize services in the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Brown said.

Eligibility for compensated services depends on the Veteran, but every veteran who has served, may be eligible for some level of care. Those interested in learning more can call the eligibility center at 1-800-224-8387 or visit the center in person at the VA Medical Center in Little Rock.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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