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The new VA hospital is scheduled to open this summer. Photo courtesy of H+L and SOM

Denver’s New VA Hospital

Finally, Denver's long-awaited (and long-debated) new veterans' medical center debuts.

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Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determined that Denver’s post–World War II hospital for veterans wasn’t cutting it anymore. This summer, after years of planning, replanning, and, of course, a massive budget scandal, the new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center will open in Aurora. Yes, the $1.7 billion facility was $1 billion over budget. And, yes, the gross overspending was the subject of a congressional investigation (that didn’t result in any prosecutions). Nevertheless, Colorado’s 409,000 veterans will finally have a modern facility with three outpatient and two inpatient clinic buildings, a diagnostic and treatment center, a research hub, and—hallelujah—three parking structures, so visitors no longer have to lap the neighborhood looking for a spot. Here’s an inside peek.

1. Location, Location, Location
Before the University of Colorado School of Medicine opened on the Anschutz Medical Campus, the facility was co-located with the old Denver VA on Clermont Street. Now the institutions will be reconnected, making life a little smoother for both research physicians and patients. It’s convenient to walk from the new VA to the medical school and its primary hospital affiliate, the University of Colorado Hospital, on the 230-acre campus they share in Aurora.

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2. Smart Layout
The 30-plus-acre site is connected by a 1,100-foot-long concourse running through the center. All 12 structures are adjacent to the spine on either the east or the west side, so visitors and staff members can easily traverse the hospital and its surrounds.

3. New Treatments
Until now, Colorado veterans who required inpatient care for spinal cord injuries had to travel to Albuquerque or Chicago. The new center’s spinal clinic puts an end to that hassle with inpatient beds, a rehab gym and pool, and an outdoor courtyard with therapeutic elements such as stairs and varied surfaces to practice walking. Plus, the VA will offer mammograms and PET scans for the first time.

4. Service Boost
Inpatient beds will increase to 148—that’s 19 more than the current facility. In addition, the VA plans to eventually move its PTSD residential rehabilitation program from the old hospital (parts of which will remain open for now) to the new facility to better serve its mental health patients.

5. Room With A View
Unlike at the previous hospital, almost every patient will get his or her own room, and each room comes with its own window and lighting and temperature controls. What’s more, visiting family and friends can use separate bunk pullouts.

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