Access, convenience and comprehensive care.
Those were the tenants in mind as construction began October 2012 on the new 70,000-square-foot VA Montana Health Center at 1766 Majestic Lane.
Located in Billings’ expansive West End, the new facility offers many of the services available at Fort Harrison, Montana’s only VA Hospital.
Prior to the completion of the new facility, several Billings veterans needed to travel 500 miles round-trip to Fort Harrison for surgery or specialty treatments.
“We are so excited to save our patients undue travel time and offer a suite of services under one roof right in our community,” said Stormy Hoiness, nurse manager at the VA Montana Health Center.
Triple the size of the adjacent existing VA Clinic, the new facility is expected to serve an estimated 12,000 veterans from Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota—about 2,000 more than are currently served.
The minimalist, contemporary design of the facility is balanced with the use of a warm color palette in taupe, charcoal and cream. Ample light floods the entryway and waiting area, with a convenient information alcove and reception desk greeting guests.
“The building design maximizes space and efficiency,” Hoiness said. “It’s basically a rectangular shape with all our service departments on the periphery and the waiting area and administrative offices in the middle.”
The facility, which is certified LEED-Silver, uses energy-efficient elements and recycled products when possible, Hoiness said.
The spacious waiting are is appointed with flat screen TVs, a drink and snack station and is decorated with Montana-themed artwork.
“We want our patients to feel at ease and be as comfortable as possible,” Hoiness said.
Specialty care and surgical services are among the most celebrated at the new clinic. Services offered include audiology, mental and behavioral health, outpatient surgery, dental care, physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, eye care and rehabilitation.
The facility’s state-of-the-art conference rooms mirror the technology offered elsewhere in the clinic, withtele-health conferencing and video capabilities.
“These amenities greatly enhance our new employee orientations,” Hoiness said, adding that the clinic is also outfitted with its own Human Resources department.
The audiology department is equipped with two soundproof rooms, ideal for hearing testing. Down the hall, the facility’s prosthetics and physical therapy department features the latest in rehabilitation equipment—even a cheerful patio for outdoor exercise.
“Here, we believe that details make all the difference,” Hoiness said, “like the forethought taken in implementing the treadmills at ground level.”
With the machines inset into the floor, it eases access on and off.
Suite of services
Just around the corner from the facility’s impressive physical therapy department are the dental and specialty care units. The dental department staffs two dental hygienists and a full-time dentist. Patients can enjoy broad, sweeping West End views while having their teeth cleaned or worked on.
Additional specialty care includes a cardiac testing department, complete with stress test treadmill and pacemaker station, orthopedics, podiatry and endoscopy. The VA has also placed a strong emphasis on behavioral health care and suicide prevention.
Some of the first patients in the new clinic are expected to be those seeking behavioral health services. There will be one psychiatrist on staff, and tele-health video technology provides access to seven different psychiatrists. Also on staff are an advanced nurse practitioner, substance abuse disorders specialist, psychologist, four psychotherapists and other behavioral health professionals.
The VA Health Center’s out-patient surgery wing, which isn’t up and running just yet, features several private pre-op suites and two state-of-the-art operating rooms.
The first room, OR-1, is fully integrated with video and streaming media.
“If during an operation, the doctor wants to pull up a chart or X-rays of the patient to instantly look at them on screen, this technology allows for that,” Hoiness said.
The second operating room, which mirrors the first, isn’t video-ready, but the technology could be implemented down the road should the need arise, Hoiness said.
Two private endoscopy suites round out the facility’s surgical center.
“It gives me goose bumps to know that we are providing quality care to Veterans who would otherwise have travel to Fort Harrison for these procedures,” Hoiness said. “We anticipate serving patients from the greater Billings area, parts of North Dakota as well as some from northern Wyoming. “