MODESTO -- Several hundred veterans and other guests gathered Friday for a health clinic dedication in Modesto that featured speeches, a Purple Heart ceremony and a vintage warplane flyover.
The Department of Veterans Affairs showed off its 23,250-square-foot outpatient center at 1225 Oakdale Road, which is double the size of the VA clinic on McHenry Avenue. The new clinic will open for patients Feb. 27.
Veterans said they were impressed with the 20 exam rooms, a well-equipped occupational therapy unit and facilities for video-based Internet appointments with specialists in other cities.
Friday's ceremony was the culmination of a two-year construction project by California Gold Development Corp. of Sonora. The Department of Veterans Affairs has an agreement to lease the privately owned building for 10 years.
Republican Congressman Jeff Denham delivered the keynote speech and pinned a Purple Heart on Modesto native Joseph Jackson, a Navy hospital corpsman who was injured in Iraq in 2006.
Jackson stood next to his service dog, Chevy, as the congressman pinned the medal to his suit.
"I never thought it would happen," Jackson said afterward. "I'm grateful to the congressman and my family."
Members of Jackson's unit were riding in a Humvee outside Fallujah in May 2006 when an improvised explosive device exploded beneath the vehicle.
After the explosion, the corpsman assisted another wounded soldier. He didn't know the extent of his own injuries until later examined by medical personnel, he said.
Formally called the Modesto Community Based Outpatient Clinic, the facility will provide medical and mental health serv- ices for about 8,500 patients. The services will include general medicine, radiology, phlebotomy, physical and occupational therapy, mental health and home-based primary care.
Veterans also will use the center for routine immunizations, limited hearing-aid repair and speech therapy. A 44-member staff of health care professionals and administrative employees will run the spacious clinic.
To bridge the gap between valley patients and VA medical specialists in the Bay Area, the clinic will hold sessions in which doctors confer with patients over video-based Internet links. The VA has telemedicine for patients with urological problems, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric disorders, complex trauma injuries and sleep disorders.