Following a two-month study, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to demolish its quake-damaged inpatient hospital at the Sepulveda (Calif.) VA Medical Center and replace it with a $65 million outpatient surgery center by next February.
Under its recovery plan, the VA will spend $50 million to tear down the 39-year-old hospital and restore other structures on the 160-acre medical campus, including a 120-bed nursing-care facility. Construction design for the project is scheduled to begin within 30 days.
The 349-bed, six-story VA facility was evacuated and closed after the powerful quake shattered windows and walls, knocked out electricity and burst water pipes, damaging millions of dollars in medical and diagnostic equipment. Some 331 patients were transferred to VA hospitals in Long Beach, Loma Linda and West Los Angeles (Jan. 24, p. 2).
Since the quake, the Sepulveda VA center has been providing outpatient care on site and off campus through mobile clinics, but complex cases requiring hospitalization have been referred to other VA facilities.
Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown said last week that the inpatient hospital won't be rebuilt because the VA must cut costs under proposed national healthcare reform initiatives.
Mr. Brown said the VA has determined that there are enough existing beds at other Southern California VA facilities to handle the acute-care patient load of the closed Sepulveda hospital. He noted that most of the patients evacuated from Sepulveda after the quake were moved to the 1,157-bed West Los Angeles facility, where nearly 200 beds remained empty.
Initial estimates by VA officials set the inpatient hospital's cost of reconstruction and seismic retrofitting at $188 million. Engineers deemed the Sepulveda inpatient hospital irreparable in the weeks following the quake (Jan. 31, p. 6).
Sepulveda officials submitted damage estimates and proposals for saving or restructuring operations to Washington within days of the quake, said Perry Norman, the hospital's director. VA officials proposed making emergency repairs to minimize down time, Ms. Norman said.
Mr. Brown said about 1,000 of Sepulveda hospital's 1,700 workers will staff the new outpatient center, and 400 to 500 others temporarily transferred to the West Los Angeles hospital will relocate permanently to that facility. The remainder will be offered jobs at other VA facilities throughout the country. No layoffs are expected, he said.