Rocky Mountain VAMC Construction Remains Controversial; Set to Open Later This Year

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON—The long delayed and over-budget Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center in Aurora, CO, is finally scheduled to open its doors in August 2018, but lawmakers are questioning why it lacks the primary care space needed and has the same number of beds as the hospital it is replacing.

“Even after the new medical center opens, VA must continue operating the old medical center, because presently some of the primary care doctors and the PTSD residential rehabilitation facility have nowhere else to go,” said House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN).

The project has been the subject of many congressional hearings and GAO reports over the years as the originally requested design funds in FY 2004 of $328.5 million ballooned over the years to nearly 1.7 billion. The new facility is intended to replace the current Denver VA.

The Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center in Aurora, CO, shown here in a construction photo, is finally scheduled to open its doors in August 2018, but lawmakers are questioning why it lacks the primary care space needed and has the same number of beds as the hospital it is replacing. Photo from Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Calling it a “construction debacle,” Roe said the road to completing this hospital has “been extremely long and bumpy. This situation must never happen again.”

The view was expressed at a recent hearing where lawmakers and VA officials discussed features and activation plans for the new facility.

While Roe praised the facility’s new spinal cord injury treatment as state of the art, he pointed out the hospital has fewer psychiatric beds than the old hospital and lacks a PTSD residential facility. He also pointed out that the number of primary care rooms had been reduced from 60 to 34.

As a result, the old facility could have to stay open for as many as five years to accommodate the functions that won’t fit in the new hospital. “If it does stay open, there is an estimate that there would be $350 million dollars’ worth of work done to a campus that you are going to get rid of. None of this makes a lot of sense,” Roe pointed out.

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