Harriman VA clinic? Not really

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Despite what Fleischmann said, location really is Rockwood

By Cheryl Duncan, Assistant Editor

A building can be located within Rockwood city limits, yet have a Harriman postal address.

That’s the case with Roane County’s new Department of Veterans Affairs clinic at 2305 N. Gateway Ave., Harriman.

“It’s in the city of Rockwood, although it has a Harriman address,” Harriman Mayor Chris Mason said.

The location is the old Kroger shopping center, which is now called the Shoppes of Walden Ridge.

Chris Conklin, a spokesman for the Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, said he didn’t have an opening date, but the goal is early March.

“We’re very excited about expanding services in that area,” he said.
It won’t be the first time.

A Veterans Affairs clinic opened in Rockwood in the Chamberlain Professional Building in  2010.

It closed in 2012 after staffing problems.  

Rockwood Mayor James Watts said he has no idea if the new operation will run better than the one that closed, but he’s happy another clinic is coming to Roane County.

“I think the veterans in this area will benefit from having a place to go for various health problems,” he said.

Mason said he’s also happy the county is getting a clinic, but didn’t couch his disappointment about the facility locating in Rockwood city limits instead of Harriman.

“I really don’t understand how it’s going to Rockwood,” Mason said.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann announced last month that the clinic was going to Harriman.  

“He told me the location, and I corrected him,” Mason said. “I told him it wasn’t in the city of Harriman. It was in the city of Rockwood, although it had a Harriman address.”

Mason said Harriman was actively pursuing the clinic, and even offered Veterans Affairs a space to house the facility.

“We offered them a perfectly good doctor’s office in Harriman,” he said. “I’m losing faith in the VA.”

In 2012, the VA turned down the city’s overture of locating a VA hospital in the old Roane Medical Center.

“You couldn’t have drawn up a better story that made more sense for us to have a hospital here,” Mason said. “And then for us to offer them a hospital building for a dollar, their reason for not putting one here is beyond me.”

The VA said there was no feasible justification for operating a VA hospital in Harriman.

The VA clinic that closed in 2012 was run by a contractor instead of the VA. Conklin said the new clinic will also be run by a contractor.

“The contract clinic process works very well,” he said. “We have a number throughout the state.”

Conklin said Valor Healthcare is the contractor for the new clinic. It will offer primary care and mental health services.

Conklin said Valor will be responsible for the staff and providing the services.