More hours at Ely VA Clinic; Facility now open three days per week, over 450 veterans served

by Tom Coombe -

Ely’s Veterans Affairs Clinic is expanding its hours and presence in town.
Effective Nov. 20, the VA Community Clinic provides service three days per week.
Since opening in 2013, the clinic was open two days per week but demand has grown and it’s now open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at its home in a city-owned facility in Ely’s business park.
“It’s a strong message that we are staying in Ely,” said Ralph Heussner, director of public affairs for the VA’s Minneapolis office. “We would not be expanding if we planned to move.”
The VA has settled in to a building it shares with the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Sato Travel.
Since opening in 2013, the clinic has become a primary stop for many area veterans for primary, mental health and telecare.
According to Heussner, the facility now serves 460 veterans.
“Hopefully with expanded hours, we’ll be able to serve a larger population.”
The Ely clinic is one of 13 satellite offices operated by the Minneapolis VA in Minnesota as well as Wisconsin.
“The obvious benefit is to intervene early so veterans don’t have to come to Minneapolis and don’t have to see a specialist,” said Heussner. “We know if you have to drive to Minneapolis you’re going to miss a day of work, and if you have to drive that far you might not come for something minor. The problem is sometimes something that is minor becomes problematic later on.”
In 2013, the VA selected Ely to join Hibbing as one of two Iron Range clinic sites, replacing Cook as a location.
The net result was an increase in patients served, and Heussner said demographic studies showed a high concentration of veterans in the Ely area.
The expansion could result in a further increase in veterans served, according to Heussner.
“It’s kind of a theory that if you build it they will come,” said Heussner. “We’ve seen that with our other clinics.”
The clinic is operated by Sterling Medical under a contract with the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.
The Ely clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on its days of service.