VA hospital in CO nears completion, more than $1B over budget
- The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) beleaguered now-$2 billion Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center hospital project in Aurora, CO, is nearing completion, but the agency is facing more than $1 billion in cost overruns and a facility that will not offer as many services as its predecessor, according to Federal News Radio.
- The new hospital has twice the square footage of the Denver hospital it will eventually replace, but because errors in the project's design, there will not be enough room for necessary primary care teams, medical beds, psychiatric units or a residential post-traumatic stress disorder program. VA officials said the department will hire a contractor to fix hundreds of small design mistakes like sinks in operating rooms and surfaces that are not able to be cleaned.
- In order to meet patient needs, the VA will use both the new hospital and the Denver facility for the next three to five years, or until the agency can buy an additional building. The necessary upgrades to the existing hospital could cost as much as $350 million.
The Aurora hospital has been a thorn in the VA's side for years. The agency will miss the original completion date by four years, but the facility helped catalyze Congress' decision to put the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of any VA construction project expected to cost $100 million or more.
After lawmakers took away the VA's authority to build its own hospitals without supervision, the agency conducted an investigation, ostensibly to get at the heart of its management problems. However, the results were criticized by those who said the VA refused to take responsibility. The agency ultimately pointed the finger at three former employees, absolving any existing staff of blame.
But the debacle in Aurora hasn't kept the VA from planning for more capital projects. The agency announced in October that it had selected 35 acres near downtown Louisville, KY, on which it will build a new $925 million hospital. The facility will replace the existing hospital, which was built in the 1950s, and will serve residents of 35 Kentucky counties, as well as some in neighboring Indiana. The VA must still secure funding from Congress.
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