Change may be coming for local veterans health care; Topeka medical practice expands in Lawrence

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Genstler Eye Center has moved to 2200 Harvard Road, while the VA outpatient medical clinic next door is looking for a new Lawrence location.

I have heard from some of you veterans recently, and it hasn’t been to just mock my winless streak in bingo at the American Legion. Instead, several of you have had questions about whether the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is planning a pullback in medical services in Lawrence.

The short answer is no, but changes are coming for the primary care outpatient clinic that the VA operates at 2200 Harvard Road. All indications are the outpatient center is going to move.

Leaders with the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System are hosting a town hall forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center to discuss changes to the local VA health care offerings.

I got in touch with Joseph Burks, a spokesman for the VA, though he wasn’t able to tell me specifics about the pending changes. But he told me there are no plans to leave Lawrence without a VA primary care office. Rather, the agency hopes to figure out how to expand its space.

“That is the intent,” Burks said of a larger facility. “We want to offer more care to our veterans closer to where they are.”

Burks said the agency had outgrown the space at 2200 Harvard Road. When asked whether the organization had a new Lawrence location to announce, he said the hope is that such information will be finalized for Thursday’s meeting. On Tuesday, he said a contract had not yet been finalized for a new space.

The VA clinic functions much like a primary care doctors office for area veterans. It has doctors and nurses that offer all the same type of care that you would find at most family practice clinics. In addition, the VA clinic also offers some behavioral health care to veterans.

We will check back in with the VA later this week to see if there is word on a new location. In the meantime, the center remains open at 2200 Harvard Road.

2200 Harvard Rd, Lawrence, KS 66049

There’s also other news at that location. Genstler Eye Center has moved into the 2200 Harvard building after completing a multi-month renovation. Genstler does all sorts of eye surgeries, including LASIK procedures and treatments for glaucoma and macular degeneration. But a lot of the work it does is related to cataract removal.

Genstler, which has offices in Topeka and Manhattan, has been in Lawrence for a little over a year. But previously it was in small, leased space near Sixth Street and Folks Road. Shawn Menke, practice administrator for Genstler, said the company decided to take a big jump by purchasing the 2200 Harvard building, which has housed a variety of medical practices over the years.

He said the growing number of retirees coming to Lawrence played a role in the company’s decision. Plus, he mentioned Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s decision to build an approximately $100 million outpatient center near Rock Chalk Park as evidence that the entire health care industry seems to be on an upswing in Lawrence.

“I think it is only going to get busier,” Menke said of the Lawrence market. “There are a lot of exciting things underway with the medical community.”

Menke, though, said the practice opted not to follow the trend of locating in west Lawrence. He said the Harvard location seemed more centrally located and had good access to the hospital.

Currently, the Lawrence clinic is open only on Mondays and select other days. But Menke said plans call for the center to be a five-day-a-week operation once patient levels grow. The practice already has one doctor who lives in Lawrence, Stephen Hinton. Menke said the Lawrence center — which checks in at about 7,500 square feet — is designed to grow to two doctors with a staff of 10 to 15 people.

“We’ve just seen a true need to expand services in Lawrence,” Menke said.


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