Late Breaking News
Contractor Provides Congress Inside Information on VA Construction Delay
In January, VA told the designers to finish the last of the drawings and turn them in to the contractor, which they did in March.
“We got 200 new drawings, which are supposedly the final set,” Gorrie said. “Now we’re being told to go to work and catch up, so to speak.”
That is far easier said than done. With all of the revisions to the blueprints and the new equipment that has been added, it will take time for Brasfield & Gorrie to incorporate the new information into construction plans.
“We’re in the midst of a whole new set of drawings with lots of changes, and it has to be resolved,” Gorrie said. “It’s going to take time.”
The delays have driven the cost up at least $20 million, as of April, Dwyer said. “When the job started changing rapidly, we increased our manpower in the field and in the project office. We went from eight project managers to roughly 25 just to handle the massive amount of changes taking place.”
Asked if he thought there was the realization within VA that costs were going up, Gorrie responded, “They understand it, but they don’t acknowledge it.”
While the contractor supposedly has the final drawings, it is not out of the question that more revisions could occur. Considering the history of the project, Dwyer said construction could “go off the rails” again very easily.
When VA officials testified later at the same hearing, the delays were acknowledged, but not that they were caused by poor planning or communication by VA.
“The practice of updating equipment needs of a new construction process is common,” said Robert Petzel, MD, Under Secretary for Health for VA. “You generally have [placeholders for] utilities in places like the operating room and radiology, and then, as a final decision is made, they’re turned over to the contractor as augmented drawings.”
VA officials did say the early work from the design firm hired for the project — a firm separate from Brasfield & Gorrie — had “many, many problems.”
Wherever the blame lies, VA officials were clear that the project will be neither on time nor on budget. “Clearly, we know that there is going to be an increase in cost in this facility,” said Glenn Haggstrom, principal executive director, VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction . . “Roughly at this point in time, we’ve issued about $15 million in change orders. Until we get to a point in time when we can quantify what these costs are and work with the contractor, I do not have a final cost.”
Grilled by Florida legislators about what would be needed to get the hospital open by October 2012, Haggstrom said it is out of the question. “This hospital is not going to open in October 2012, and that’s a fact. There is nothing VA can do to meet the original completion date.”
That news did not go over well with the committee.
“We have been waiting for 25 years [for a new hospital],” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL). “This is a serious indictment on VA and Congress. [The current facility] is overcrowded, and the veterans in the area deserve a new facility.”
Orlando veterans are not alone in wondering where their new facilities are. Of the 55 major medical facility projects authorized in recent years, 38 are behind schedule. Of those, 14 are at least three years behind schedule.
Four major medical centers — Denver, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Orlando — have experienced significant cost increases and delays. The project costs total about $3 billion. All were authorized between 2004 and 2006. None are open for business today.