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This Month in AFMS History: Kirtland opens first joint Air Force and VA health clinic

  • Published
  • Air Force Medical Service History Office
On Sept. 8, 1989, the 377th Medical Group cut the ribbon on a joint Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs clinic located on the VA campus in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Monte B. Miller, along with several distinguished congressional guests, dedicated the four-story super clinic, the first-ever constructed under an Air Force and VA sharing agreement. The building housed emergency services, inpatient services, and surgical operations.

The project began January 1986, when the Air Force Surgeon General and the VA Chief Medical Director agreed to a joint venture between the hospital at Kirtland and the Albuquerque VA Medical Center. The agreement allowed the Air Force to shift inpatient operations and staff from the Kirtland Hospital to the VA beginning the spring of 1987. Additionally, it enabled the Air Force to shelve plans to alter the existing Air Force hospital into an ambulatory care center.

The first step in the transition, relocating the Air Force inpatient nursing units, emergency room, urgent care clinic, and the inpatient surgery to the existing VA Medical Center, ended in June 1987. The Air Force continued to provide outpatient services from its existing facility, renamed the Kirtland Ambulatory Health Center. Construction began on the new medical center in February 1988 and opened for patients in September 1989. The facility went from design to fully operational in less than two years.

The Kirtland Super Clinic served as a model for other Joint VA-military clinics at bases around the country. The Joint model helps ensure access to the highest quality care and supports the Air Force medical readiness mission by expanding the type and volume of patients treated by Air Force medical providers as they prepare for deployments.

Today, the Kirtland Clinic continues to deliver Trusted Care to the military, retirees, and dependents in the joint medical complex, supporting more than 40,000 TRICARE eligible beneficiaries in the Albuquerque area.