KERNERSVILLE — A big crowd turned out Friday for the grand opening of the new Kernersville Veterans Affairs Health Care Center, a $130 million building that will provide a host of outpatient services for veterans in the Triad and beyond.
The center has been seeing patients since Feb. 16, but those who took the tour of the new building after the ribbon-cutting saw many departments not yet open that will be filled in the months to come.
“They are hiring,” said Dr. Tamara Burks, the assistant chief of staff for ambulatory care, who led one of the tour groups through the three-story building.
The new center is on Kernersville Medical Parkway off Macy Grove Road.
Burks said about 200 employees are working in the building now, but that could rise to some 600 employees when all the services are up and running, she said.
The opening was a moment of pride for officials in Kernersville and Forsyth County as well as a large number of veterans and center staffers, who attended a ceremony marked with the pomp of the presentation of colors by a naval operation support center color guard team.
“We are so excited about this ribbon-cutting in Kernersville,” town Mayor Dawn Morgan said. “This is something that people in our area have hoped for for a long time.”
Several speakers credited Sen. Richard Burr for making the center’s location here possible, and Burr himself said that the center, along with similar ones in Fayetteville and Charlotte, are living up to a dream to provide better care for veterans.
Burr said people should be proud that the center allows them to “keep that promise” of caring for those who sacrifice for their country.
Other speakers at the event included Dave Plyler, the chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, and national, local and regional VA officials.
Todd Mommsen, a veteran on the Salisbury VA Veteran and Family Advisory Council, spoke to the group about veteran sacrifices, as did Tara McClary Reeves, the daughter of a veteran, who also sang the national anthem.
Officials announced that the center will be headed by Brent Erickson, a retired Air Force hospital administrator who is a recent arrival to the VA.
The outpatient center replaces two clinics in Winston-Salem and has four times their combined space, officials said.
“We are on the precipice of being able to provide many more services to the veterans of the Winston-Salem, Kernersville and Greensboro area,” said Kay Greene, the director of the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury.
The center will have many specialty clinics including audiology, cardiology, dental, diagnostic imaging, dialysis, ophthalmology, neurology, pulmonary, radiology and women’s health, as well as a pharmacy, lab and pathology services.
The building was constructed by Lendlease Healthcare Development and is leased to the VA. Sections of the building are designated with names of state and local landmarks: Reynolda Gardens, for instance, and Ocracoke. Interior building cutouts that span multiple floors allow natural light to diffuse through the building, and there are outdoor garden terraces for folks seeking outside air.
The building, designed for efficiency, is predicted to have an energy savings of 31 percent compared to similar health care buildings.
Stewart Redden, a veteran who lives in Kernersville, said after a tour that the building would be “a whole lot easier to get around in, and easier to get here too.” But Bob Ensign, also of Kernersville, said he thought the bathrooms and pharmacy were too far from the front door for people who are disabled.
Dick Cartwright, a veteran from Madison, said the building is nice, but he hopes he doesn’t have to use it anytime soon:
“As long as I can stay away from this place, the better I will be,” he said.