By Jason Allen

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The North Texas VA is adjusting care for thousands of veterans who use the system’s Fort Worth clinic after winter weather left the building unusable until the second week of March.

Water lines that burst during the extended freeze last week left the entire first floor of the building and some of the second floor uninhabitable, according to system director Dr. Stephen Holt. Water flooded areas housing critical equipment like radiology, and some of the sterile areas in the building.

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“It’s a huge hit,” Holt said. “With about 50,000 of our veterans served in that Fort Worth area.”

Fort Worth VA Medical Clinic (CBS 11)

The VA has been calling veterans this week, with options for care. They may be able to reschedule after March 8, which the clinic is expected to reopen.

Those with immediate needs though may need to travel to the main hospital campus in Dallas.

Virtual care appointments are also an option for some veterans. Holt said the VA made a strong move toward video appointments during the pandemic, which left them in a good position for this situation.

“We want to make sure no one goes without needed care,” Holt said.

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Veterans use the clinics not only for primary and dental care, but for specialty services including cardiology, physical therapy, imaging and social work. The building off of south Loop 820, is the largest leased space the VA has, according to the department’s website. It serves veterans in 16 western counties, including Parker, Johnson and Hood.

The damage is also forcing changes to the VA’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The clinic was delivering about 450 doses a day, all inside, which Holt said was preferable for most patients. However, Friday staff was setting up a drive-through operation, which could be open by the weekend.

Holt said the building’s owner had construction crews working around the clock to make repairs.

He praised staff who he said had reached out to patients who need dialysis during the winter storm, to make sure they had transportation. They were checking on people in special programs he said, even buying firewood and taking it to veteran’s homes.

The VA facility in Tyler was also damaged, and will remain closed until March 3.

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Holt said water lines broke at the main campus in Dallas during the storm, leaving one tower of the hospital without water for about 8 hours. Staff used bottled water though to keep the facility operating until water could be restored.