April 17, 2015

After clinic closure, Manchin asks for help for Greenbrier veterans | Charleston Gazette

A Veterans Administration mobile unit from Bluefield may be coming to help veterans who usually receive their medical help and treatment from the VA clinic in Maxwelton in Greenbrier County.

The Maxwelton Clinic was temporarily closed on April 13, for the third time in less than a year, after air quality tests found elevated levels of formaldehyde in the air.

“We have just sent a letter to [the Bluefield mobile clinic], mentioning that people in Greenbrier County have a long way to go now,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Friday.

Each time the clinic in Maxwelton has closed temporarily, veterans needing medical help have had to travel to the Beckley Veterans Administration Medical Center for care.

“We have a mobile VA unit in Bluefield,” Manchin said. “We are trying to get that up there [to Greenbrier County] to help.” Debbie Voloski, spokeswoman for the Beckley VA center which oversees the Greenbrier and mobile clinics, said no decisions have been made. “Appointments at the mobile clinic in Bluefield are already scheduled on a daily basis,” she said. “Issues are being discussed at all levels of the VA. No decisions have been made.

Voloski said the center is also looking to open a small clinic in Princeton.

“We are looking at all viable options to come up with a solution,” Voloski said. “We are committed to providing care to the veterans in the Greenbrier Valley.”

After the April 13 closure, medical services offered to veterans through the Greenbrier County Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Maxwelton were relocated to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Beckley for “an undetermined time frame,” said Karin L. McGraw, director of the Beckley center.

With the latest closure, the Maxwelton clinic has closed three times since June 2014 because of complaints about air quality.

The VA first closed its Maxwelton clinic on June 6, 2014, after employees complained they felt ill and were suffering from dizziness and headaches. The clinic reopened in September, but then closed again in October after employees reported similar problems.

The clinic reopened earlier this year on February 24, and began seeing patients again on February 27, before closing for the third time.

“The decision to relocate the services from the Greenbrier County CBOC was based upon results of air quality testing by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,” Voloski said in an earlier news release. “A number of employees were continuing to report issues with air quality.”

Today, West Virginia has four main VA hospitals -- in Beckley, Clarksburg, Huntington and Martinsburg. Clinics, like the one in Maxwelton, operate under the supervision of one of those four hospitals.

When it is open, the Maxwelton clinic serves about 2,400 veterans from Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas and Summers counties in West Virginia, as well as veterans from Alleghany County, Virginia, Voloski said.

Veterans who are patients at the Maxwelton Clinic can find information about scheduling other appointments, Voloski said, by calling the Greenbrier County Clinic at 304-497-3900 or the Beckley VA Hospital at 304-255-2121.

By:  Paul J. Nyden