Colorado VA hospital to open $1B over budget after 5-year delay

Although it's five-years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center  finally will open to outpatients July 27 and inpatients Aug. 4, the Denver Post reports.

The $1.7 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot medical facility based in Aurora, Colo., will replace an aging VA hospital on a 31-acre campus. It will have 182 inpatient beds, ambulatory care clinics, research laboratories, critical care units, traumatic brain injury units and offer mental health treatment. One of the facility's most publicized features is a 30-bed spinal cord injury clinic.

Although the opening of the modernized campus was celebrated at a ceremonial ribbon cutting July 21, politicians, VA officials and area residents all acknowledged the problems that plagued the facility.

While praising the hospital for providing state-of-the-art care for veterans, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said, "This also represents the largest construction failure in VA history."

Initially, the replacement hospital was to be part of the University of Colorado hospital system, but veterans wanted their own facility. After receiving approval, the VA hired a design team. In 2008, the agency estimated the hospital would be completed in 2013 and cost $537 million to build.

In 2015, the hospital project drew national outrage when the agency admitted it was $1 billion over budget and still had a giant to-do list. Federal investigators blamed the delays and budget overruns on the weak oversight of VA executives, who opted for a lavish design tied to a complicated contract they didn't understand. They also failed to get designers to agree on plans and costs.

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