By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

Pictured above is a rendering of the new $8 million construction project that began this week at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. Much care was taken to match the brick as closely as possible to the existing structure.

The initial stages of construction began this Monday for a great improvement that will be coming to the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.  The multi-million dollar ambulatory care build-out project will include a new entrance and hallway that will expand outpatient primary care, providing more exam rooms and improving patient flow.

Wesley Walls, Public Affairs Officer at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, said they are excited to get started.  The planning stages have been occurring over the past two to three years, with designing the new features encompassing a year’s time.

“Upon completion, this project will provide a very professional entrance that will be a brighter, more open environment and offer a more distinctive, welcoming lobby, a nice commons area, as well as adding more exam space for outpatient care,” Walls stated.

He explained the added convenience for Veterans traveling back and forth to Pittsburgh, saying, “We have a daily shuttle that transports Veterans to Pittsburgh for appointments and treatments, but currently our main circle does not allow that motorcoach to pick up and drop off Veterans right at the main entrance.  When the main circle was built, it was not designed for that large a vehicle to maneuver around it.  Upon completion of this project, our Veterans will be able to board and disembark from the motorcoach shuttle right at the main entrance with no exposure to poor weather conditions.  That convenience alone will be of great value to our Veterans, particularly those who have mobility issues.”

During construction, however, the main traffic pattern will be altered.  The main traffic circle and the main entrance will be closed, and the Northwest entrance (also referred to as the Women’s Clinic Entrance) will become the new entrance for everyone coming to the Medical Center – volunteers, Veterans, employees, visitors, etc.

While construction is ongoing, all traffic will turn in the main parking lot and utilize the Northwest entrance – that includes city buses, valet services, and general parking.  It will be clearly marked with large, visible signage.

Valet parking will continue to be offered, however,  throughout the construction period.

“We would like to caution visitors to be more vigilant when driving in the main parking lot and to pay particular attention to the new traffic patterns,” Walls added.

Visitors to the VA Medical Center will notice that during active construction, the work area will be entirely closed off until the project is completed, which is expected to take anywhere from 18 to 24 months.

“Currently, we don’t have a general lobby.  Those entering the VA walked right into the outpatient lobby.  This new construction will create a distinct change, lending a separate area for a main lobby and a more professional information desk and welcoming area,” Walls continued.  “Also, we currently have four outpatient hallways, so by adding a fifth new hallway, this will expand our outpatient primary care area and add more exam rooms to optimize care in a more timely manner.”

Recognizing that construction projects often cause some confusion, the VA Medical Center plans to try to make these changes less difficult for both patients and visitors.  The Northwest information desk will be staffed 24/7 during construction.

“Because using this temporary new entrance is something that our Veterans and their families are not accustomed to, having the information desk staffed during both our regular operating hours as well as after hours, we hope to eliminate any confusion.  They will receive the directions they need to easily locate the emergency room and any other services they are looking for,” Walls stated.

Dr. Glenn R. Snider, Medical Center Director, concluded, “I know that construction projects are never easy, but I ask for your patience while our facility constructs this new Ambulatory Care Build-Out, which will enable us to give more Veterans of North Central West Virginia better access to quality care.”