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The Tampa veterans' hospital is building a new clinic in Lakeland to expand access to care

Rendering of the new clinic the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is building in Lakeland
James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital
The new clinic in Lakeland will be about six times the size of the existing one in that community.

The new Lakeland clinic could help reduce wait times and how far veterans in Polk County have to travel for care.

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital is preparing to build a new clinic in Lakeland that will be about six times the size of its existing facility. The goal is to better meet the health care needs of the region's growing veteran population.

Construction is scheduled to start in early spring on the $112 million clinic, according to David K. Dunning, the hospital’s executive director.

He said it will offer expanded primary care, pharmacy, mental health and specialty services including physical therapy, podiatry and radiology. The larger building will also come with 650 additional parking spaces, Dunning noted.

“What really made it necessary is Florida in general is having this huge growth spurt of veterans that are coming to this area, especially in Tampa and along the I-4 corridor,” he said.

Dunning said having more space and services in Polk County will help reduce wait times and keep vets from having to travel to Tampa for certain types of care, a trip that typically involves driving along the often congested I-4.

“It can go from wide open to stuck dead in traffic in 30 seconds,” said Dunning. “So that's really what this is about is taking away the stress of having to travel so we don't take up more time in their [veterans’] day.”

Dunning expects construction to wrap up by next year and for the clinic to start treating patients in 2024.

The Lakeland facility is one of several expansion projects the Tampa VA is working on.

Others include a clinic in New Port Richey that Dunning said could start seeing patients as early as this summer and a new bed tower at the main hospital in Tampa that he expects will open this fall.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.