VA Officials Say Disastrous Hospital In Denver Is Now Too Small
The VA hospital project in Denver needs $830 million to finish construction, and by the time it’s finally completed, the facility will already be too small.
“To simplify all of that for you, the Denver project has been discussed for 15 years, is a billion dollars over budget, several years behind schedule, and — on the day it opens — will apparently be too small,” said Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee stating at a hearing on Wednesday.
The total cost of the hospital comes in at $1.73 billion dollars. Last year, VA officials were still in denial about budget issues, saying that the hospital could open in 2015 and cost just $630 million.
VA officials adressed the conundrum at a hearing Wednesday about the hospital’s progress. Now standing at $1 billion dollars over budget, the hospital still needs an additional 500,000 gross square feet to meet growing demand. Part of that demand is for outpatient care. The current design is simply too tight.
Lawmakers feel they’re trapped by an obligation to see the hospital through to completion, held hostage by an incompetent VA which refuses to hold officials accountable and pays no attention to cost overruns.
Lack of accountability came to the surface most vividly through the testimony of whistleblower Adelino R. Gorospe Jr., who reported back in 2010 that the hospital had gone seriously over budget. He was fired. Gibson promised to look into allegations that he was retaliated against, but according to The Washington Post, Goropse stated in an email response, “I’m not holding my breath.”
Despite their reluctance in granting the VA’s request for more funding, lawmakers may dip into a $5 billion dollar fund setup last year and transfer it to the facility.
The tension was palpable in the hearing, but VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson had a quick response to the frustration and anger of representatives. In fact, it was a response the VA has relied on for countless years.
“To help ensure that previous challenges are not repeated and to lead improvements in the management and execution of our capital asset program as we move forward, VA will continue to adopt best-management practices and controls that focus on these lessons learned,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said Wednesday.
He gave almost the exact same line in January of this year.
Former VA construction chief Glenn Haggstrom also stated in 2013 that, “The lessons learned from our past construction projects will continue to lead to improvements in the management and execution of our capital program as we move forward.”
Not to be outdone by Haggstrom, in early 2012, VA undersecretary for health Robert A. Petzel gave the statement, “The lessons learned from our recent construction challenges will lead to improvements in the management and execution of our capital program as we move forward.”
Nothing final was decided Wednesday, but Miller did not want to entirely close down the possibility of re-purposing funds.
“But,” he added, “I cannot, in good conscience, advocate wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars by throwing good money after bad without receiving much more information from VA.”
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