Report Shows Why The Denver VA Hospital Is A Total Failure, And This Similar Hospital Is A Total Success

Jonah Bennett | Contributor

The Denver Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital has taken tremendous fire for cost overruns of a billion dollars, but a new report shows that, had the VA engaged in better planning and real-time accountability, the facility could have looked like the new Parkland hospital in Dallas, which finished almost on time and on budget.

A new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis compares reconstruction efforts at the VA hospital in Denver with the redesign of the Parkland hospital, which has quickly become one of the busiest hospitals in the country. Parkland features the second-largest burn unit and ranks in sixth place for number of births per year.

In Dallas, the public Parkland hospital strained to provide medical services for a patient population of one million per year. The hospital’s Board of Directors knew it was time for a change since the facility initially opened in 1894.

Leadership launched a plan to revamp the entire facility, bringing in three working groups to plan and design the new complex. The board also brought on liaisons to ensure synergy between design and hospital staff.

The hospital, twice the size of the original, opened in August 2015 and has since won numerous awards. In total, the hospital cost $1.27 billion and receiving 60 percent funding from taxpayers and 40 percent from private donors as part of a public-private partnership.

Parkland project managers hired an independent auditor for the reconstruction efforts. The auditor frequently released budget reports to the public and real-time budget updates to planners. This enabled adjustment on the fly.

In contrast, the disastrous Denver VA hospital has run a billion dollars over budget. Even though discussion for the new facility started in the 1990s, the hospital won’t open until 2017. In the beginning, officials rejected renovation proposals of $30 million and $200 million since they wanted a stand-alone facility.

Architects worked in complete isolation for four years, having no proposed project budget and no contact with hospital design experts.

Cost overruns and abysmal management resulted in “the most extravagant and expensive hospital construction project in VA history.”

According to a GAO report in 2013, the VA routinely bungles construction projects. Average cost overruns stand at $336 million. Delays average 35 months.

The final cost will end up somewhere around $2 billion.

Still, the VA handed out bonuses to several of the officials involved in the Denver hospital project.

Stella Fiotes and Dennis Milsten, part of the VA’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management, received over $8,000.

“Twenty years have passed since the VA began exploring options for replacing the Denver VA, and 10 years have passed since planning began,” Jennifer Vermeulen, research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says in the report. “Yet, the veterans of Colorado are still waiting to receive the high-quality care they deserve. Conversely, the county hospital project in Dallas remained accountable in real-time to both taxpayers and private donors. The new hospital was better than originally planned, delivered nearly on-time and on-budget. Results like that are worth every penny.”

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