The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for the Aurora Veterans Affairs Hospital project, which in a short while, will exhaust its financial possibilities. At this rate, the over-budget hospital, which is still under construction, is running the risk of not being completed.
More than a decade ago, this enormous Veterans Affairs hospital was planned to replace the old facility and offer medical services to some 400,000 veterans living in Colorado and neighbouring states. Although the initial proposition included an unrealistic budget of $328 million, few actually anticipated that the VA hospital would become one of the most expensive hospitals worldwide.
Despite not even being finished yet, the construction price has already reached a whopping $1.7 billion and funds are running out. The situation, though in dire need of resolution, seems to be going nowhere.
According to Republican Congressman Mike Coffman, the hospital has to get built. And while 400,000 veterans hope that the congressman will hold up his end of the bargain, there are certain additional issues that the hospital in Aurora faces.
Only yesterday, another high level official in the Department of Veterans Affairs handed in his retirement despite the ongoing investigation into the Aurora hospital project debacle. Alongside Glenn Haggstrom, Phillipa Anderson was the second high ranking VA official to go into retirement amid an ever-sinking project.
VA officials provided Senate and House lawmakers with a spending plan aimed at covering all remaining costs in the project that has become the costliest in VA history. It highlights a number of possibilities, from spending cuts across the agency to money shifts stemming from construction and maintenance projects.
Yet even so, building the hospital at all costs isn’t going to make up for a project that has well exceeded three times its original budget. Among the numerous factors that have been cited as causes for the repeated cost overruns, low initial estimates, repeated delays and poor planning are just a few.
The poor planning that the VA invoked caused several rooms having to be refashioned (as medical equipment did not fit into the rooms that had been poorly designed). Doors which should have cost $100 (according to the initial budget) ended up costing 14 times that and an atrium and concourse cost a whopping $100 million.
“They must be stripped of their management over construction,” Congressman Coffman said when referring to the VA.
Needless to say that the project needed to change hands. And so it did. The Army Corps of Engineers have taken over the project and will see to its completion. But even so, there simply isn’t enough money to finish the hospital.
The VA’s proposal doesn’t involve cutting mandatory health benefits for veterans, but it does significantly stunt medical care budgets. In total VA officials stated that the project would require an additional $830 million to be completed.
After careful consideration, that figure was brought down to $625 million and a very, very short leash.
“We don’t trust them enough to give them hundreds of millions of dollars at one time,” Congress notes.
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