Denver area to get new stand-alone VA hospital
DENVER, Colorado ” Veterans in Colorado and three adjoining states will get a new, stand-alone VA hospital in the Denver suburb of Aurora to replace a 59-year-old facility in southeast Denver.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the plan on Wednesday. Construction on the 200-bed hospital is expected to start next year, with an opening date in the summer of 2013.
The hospital will be built on the University of Colorado medical campus. Officials had also considered putting the hospital inside a university hospital building, a proposal veteran’s service organizations disagreed with.
Shinseki said the new VA hospital will have a 30-bed spinal cord injury center.
The project budget will be announced in April but officials said the price tag will be less than the initial estimate of $1.1 billion.
“My reaction? Have you ever seen this? From ear to ear,” said Vietnam war veteran Artie Guerrero, pointing to his smile.
Guerrero, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis that he attributes to his war injuries, has been lobbying for a new facility for eight years.
Shinseki is the fourth secretary of veterans affairs to make a decision about the hospital. The VA, the university and veterans organizations have haggled for years over the location and scope of the project ” namely whether it would be part of an existing university facility.
Guerrero said at least 2,000 veterans in the region will benefit from the spinal cord center.
“There are a large number of spinal cord injury patients now that have to travel to other states,” said Lynette Roff, director of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care Center.
The current VA facility serves 60,000 veterans in Colorado in addition to veterans in Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas, Roff said. The number of regional veterans requiring medical care is expected to increase through 2025, she added.
Shinseki said the VA will also build health care centers in Colorado Springs and Billings, Mont.
He said the Colorado facilities will mean that 92 percent of the veterans in the state will be within one hour of a primary-care facility.
Gov. Bill Ritter said he was “more than convinced” a new hospital is needed after he visited the old facility.
“The planned medical center will also create jobs,” Ritter added.