Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough visited the new Garland VA Medical Center Friday with Dallas Congressman Colin Allred who helped get it open about a year ago.
Nearly 200,000 North Texas veterans are signed up for VA health care.
The Garland facility is intended to improve service but one advocate for North Texas veterans said more service is needed.
McDonough said he thanked VA staff at the Garland Medical Center for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This pandemic is not over. So, we have to stay on it,” McDonough said
The Garland hospital building was donated to the VA by Baylor, Scott & White.
Allred said it saved taxpayers $400 million and the decade it might have taken to build a new hospital building.
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“At the height of the pandemic, when the North Texas VA took over this facility, within 3 weeks they had it up and running,” Allred said.
Paul Hendricks, President of the nonprofit Veterans Center of North Texas in Plano said the Garland facility has reduced delays veterans had a few years ago getting service at the Dallas VA Medical Center.
“We were seeing veteran after veteran that was in desperate need of medical care,” Hendricks said. “The VA was just so overloaded that they just didn’t get the attention.”
Now, Hendricks said veterans are getting much better care, but he said additional mental health treatment is needed. And he said Denton and Collin Counties should have a VA hospital, too.
“There's a real tremendous need for that. It would provide much more convenient services,” Hendricks said.
Congressman Allred said there is much more room for services at the Garland building and it will help serve more veterans from Denton and Collin counties.
“We are just in the early stages of getting this hospital fully operational and serving our veterans in every single way,” Allred said. “There’s so much to be proud of in terms of what this facility is already doing, but we have big plans for its future.”
Allred said more visitors at the Garland hospital will help boost areas around it. He said he has spoken with Garland city leaders about economic development opportunities on surrounding properties where buildings that once housed support for the former Baylor, Scott & White hospital are vacant.
Allred also said he hopes the emergency room at the VA medical center can re-open to also serve the community.
Allred said Garland has no hospital emergency room open now.
Secretary McDonough said there are many additional improvements VA hopes to see.
“We have really important infrastructure investments to make across the enterprise. This is why President Biden’s Build Back Better includes a meaningful $5 billion for VA. I really hope we can see that enacted,” McDonough said.
The VA Secretary said the North Texas area which is growing fast could expect to see additional VA facilities in the future.
In the meantime, he said the improved primary care veterans are receiving at the Garland Medical Center has reduced emergency room visits by those same patients at other hospitals by 40%, reducing the cost to taxpayers.