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Veteran’s clinic opens in Hobbs

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Hobbs City Commissioner Dwayne Penick was brought to tears Thursday, talking about the new Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic he helped champion for the community.

“This has been a long time coming,” Penick told the crowd of dignitaries, veterans and their families gathered to witness the grand opening and ribbon cutting for the clinic in the former Bealls Department Store on Turner Street in Hobbs.

“You have earned this,” Penick said. The clinic “is truly fantastic.”

The new clinic is 11,000 square feet building that underwent an approximately $2.1 million remodel.

The clinic has been a long time coming, Jason Cave, director of the West Texas VA Health Care System (WTVAHCS) told the crowd gathered on Thursday, Veterans Day, in the parking lot of the new clinic. And bringing the clinic to Hobbs was the work of many, he said.

“This building would just be a shell if not for the heart and soul (the staff of the Hobbs VA clinic) pour into the work they do every day,” Cave said. “It takes a community to activate a clinic like this.”

Getting the new clinic approved and in place was not without stumbling blocks — not the least of which was the novel coronavirus pandemic that gripped the nation almost two years ago. What started as in person town hall meetings to discuss and plan the project quickly morphed into virtual discussions as COVID-19 shut down face-to-face gatherings.

But it was a visit by James Douglas, WTVAHCS associate director, to the long-serving VA Clinic in the Don Garey Tower nearby that cemented the plans.

“I saw the conditions of that former clinic, how the elevators never worked, and I was motivated to come and talk to local veterans about how we’d failed them,” Douglas said. “It kept me awake sometimes, wondering how we were going to fix it.”

But the long-awaited project is finally a reality, he said, but it’s not the end. The next step, Douglas said, is to keep talking to local veterans and figure out ways to bring additional VA health services to the community and the new clinic.

“And it’s apropos we’re opening the doors (of the new Community Based Clinic) on Veterans Day,” he said. “It speaks to our commitment to how we serve the veterans in Hobbs.

“We had the staff, we had the commitment, we just lacked adequate facilities,” Douglas said. “Now, we have those. As a veteran myself, I am awfully proud of this day. You have earned the right to the best care we can offer.”

Lea County has approximately 8,000 veterans and there are about 735 active veterans enrolled in the Hobbs Clinic, spread throughout southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

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