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  1. Military

New VA clinic planned for south Hillsborough

SUN CITY CENTER — At 92, D-Day veteran John MacPhee of Sun City Center says he "practically lives" at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.

But to get there, he has to either hop a van in the morning or rely on his wife. Either way, it's a long and often inconvenient trip.

But for MacPhee and thousands of other veterans living in south Hillsborough County, help is on the way.

A new community-based outpatient clinic is scheduled to open in Riverview near the corner of U.S. 301 and Summerfield Crossing Boulevard in spring 2019, said Shayna B. Rodriguez, a Haley spokeswoman.

The Department of Veterans Affairs in September awarded a $44.5 million contract for the work to Hokanson Cos. Inc., an Indianapolis construction company. Hokanson will lease the center to Haley for 15 years. Plans call for a 50,000-square-foot building with 482 parking spaces, Rodriguez said.

About 25 miles south of Haley, the clinic will provide primary care, mental and behavioral health treatment, physical therapy, radiology, lab and telemedicine services.

It is the first VA outpatient care in Hillsborough County, and is expected to serve about 10,000 patients every year, Rodriguez said. By comparison, she said, the new Primary Care Annex in Tampa — which provides similar services and more — serves about 30,000. The VA also has Haley outpatient clinics in Brooksville, Lakeland, New Port Richey and Zephyrhills.

"We are eager for the opportunity to move forward with construction of this leased property to better serve our veterans living in the south Hillsborough county area," Haley director Joe Battle said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "This new clinic will provide convenient and efficient health care in their own back yard and will reduce the need for many to drive all the way to the main hospital in Tampa."

The new clinic will be especially welcome to MacPhee's neighbors in Sun City Center.

More than 4,500 veterans live in the ZIP code covering Sun City Center, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. Nearly 90 percent are older than 65, nearly 62 percent older than 75.

Many of them live 38 miles from Haley, which means they are 2 miles short of qualifying for a program called VA Choice that allows veterans living at least 40 miles from a VA medical facility to have the VA pay for private medical treatment.

"Oh, this is phenomenal," said Carmine Yevoli, 73, of Sun City Center. An Army veteran, Yevoli used to spend his days as a volunteer driving veterans to Haley. "The new location will be 20 minutes door-to-door. The guys will be happy to hear that."

MacPhee, who was in the first wave of troops to hit Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, is one of those guys. He said the new facility would be a welcome relief from the trip to Tampa.

"This would be a lot easier for me to get to," he said.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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