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U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs visits Panama City

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 8:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) -

For employees and patients of the Panama City V.A. Outpatient Clinic it was an afternoon they’ll never forget.

“I never thought I’d have this opportunity so I’m really, really just so humbled to meet him,” said Section Chief for Outpatient Scheduling, Darrell Roderique.

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie toured the facility Wednesday afternoon and thanked employees for their service to the community. “They have the highest patient satisfaction rate of any facility in the V.A. It sits at 100%. There’s no other institution in the country that’s close,” said Wilkie.

But his visit comes at a time when veterans are facing unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. “More than half of our veterans are over the age of 65 and that means they’re in a very vulnerable category,” he said.

It’s a challenge the facility has also had to adapt to.

“The biggest challenge is making sure that everybody is safe, both employees and veterans as we deal with this virus. We’ve done an outstanding job in how we screen veterans when they come into the facility, ensuring that when they come into the facility they have masks on,” said the clinic’s medical center director, Bryan Matthews.

The clinic’s model is something Wilkie said other facilities can learn from. “If I were to tell people to take a look here, I would take a look at the cooperation, about being involved in the community, and having that welcoming attitude,” he said.

Wilkie also said this is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country for veterans and believes by the end of the year Florida will overtake California for the number of veterans who live here.

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