AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– After five years of delays and more than a billion dollars over budget, the VA Hospital finally has an opening date. But the new facility doesn’t have enough space, so that the old facility it was supposed to replace must remain open.
On Wednesday, Congressman Mike Coffman, a Republican representing Colorado, specifically Aurora where the state-of-the-art facility is being built, had some tough questions for the VA administrators on Wednesday morning.
The notion that the @DeptVetAffairs has been transparent is blatantly false. Congress was never notified that the old #VA facility would have to remain open until recently, despite multiple hearings on this matter.
– Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) January 17, 2018
The new VA Hospital in Aurora doesn’t have enough primary care beds. In fact, the new facility has half the number of primary care rooms compared to the old facility.
Administrators say they will need to keep the old VA Hospital, six miles away near 9th and Colorado Boulevard, open for three to five more years. The VA also plans to lease space in other buildings around Colorado to meet the needs of veterans.
The cost of the facility is nearly $2 billion. Years of delays have resulted in the need for hundreds of changes. New building codes mean that all the outlets need to be replaced. The rooms are too small for current medical equipment and the air conditioning is inadequate.
Coffman called for the VA administrators involved in the project to be fired.
“This project is an affront to veterans who made tremendous sacrifices and affront to the taxpayers of the United States who had to pay for this and I’m very disappointed. President Trump ran on cleaning up the VA… some progress. In this area there has been no change to the same bureaucratic incompetencies”, said Coffman.
One veteran who relies on the VA is David Ortiz.
He was injured in a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan. He became a paraplegic.
He’s worried about staffing and service at the new VA once it opens.
“I’d like to see more accountability on the part of our elected leaders”, Ortiz told CBS4.
That said, he said the current VA hospital in Denver has been great and he hopes the care is as good at the new one. He also said there is a big difference between the people who work there and those who make decisions.
“To the employees and staff there, those of us in the community support you. We know how hard it is for you too. For those that are in leadership roles you’re accountable. You need to be accountable”, he said.
The VA also said in addition to $340 million to equip and furnish the hospital, it will need an additional $13 million for a PTSD clinic at the new facility that was eliminated a couple of years ago to save money.