ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — The James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center opened its new 15,000-square-foot expansion area Thursday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Doctors, patients and Congressman John Joyce (PA-13) joined VA staff for the ribbon cutting of the Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) expansion, which includes 30 exam rooms with specialized areas for telehealth, spinal cord injuries and women’s health.

The area is more than twice the size of the old primary care space that was only 6,500 square feet.

“Today’s ribbon cutting is a culmination of all the hard work and dedication of our amazing team of engineers,” Medical Center Director Sigrid Andrew said.

The new area is part of a larger expansion project to increase the center’s size by 70,000 square feet.

The $8.6 million expansion provides a new system of service for veterans. Instead of patients going to different areas for specific care and needs, veterans will now be provided all their services in a single room.

Special spine injury rooms provide more space, custom beds and equipment to assist patients in and out of bed.

Patients will also be provided with telehealth rooms where specialists will be able to video chat with veterans and use special tools to provide care from anywhere.

Telehealth Technical Supervisor Nicole Conley provided a demonstration of the telehealth system and equipment to veterans getting a tour of the facilities.

Get daily updates on local news, weather and sports by signing up for the WTAJ Newsletter

She connected to another room on a monitor and used a special camera that specialists can use to analyze injuries, provide diagnoses, prescribe medications and more. She added the equipment would be especially useful for dermatologists.

“We try to replicate face-to-face visits as much as possible,” Conley said. “VA actually leads the nation in telehealth services and the Altoona VA itself has actually been a pioneer in establishing the first one of its kind. It’s really something that we’re very proud of.”