The Department of Veterans Affairs dedicated its new $250 million Detroit VA Medical Center last week, replacing a 59-year-old facility in Allen Park, Mich.
"It is a good investment because it is a state-of-the-art facility that provides for good veterans care," said Carlos Lott, director of the new facility.
Patients will be moved into the 432-bed downtown facility in late spring. It replaces the suburban Allen Park facility, which accommodated the same number of beds.
"The beds are not in as great a demand as they were when discussion of the new facility began, and we are pursuing more of a primary-care environment, but we feel the beds will meet our needs," Lott said.
Funds for the 1 million-square-foot facility were appropriated by Congress over more than two decades, after talk of the replacement project surfaced in the mid-1960s.
A study completed in 1978 by Rosetti Associates/Architects/Planners determined that, based on the physical and functional analysis of the Allen Park facility, the hospital would require total replacement.
The study also concluded that an estimated 40% of the patients treated by the Allen Park facility live within six miles of the new downtown facility.
"Downtown Detroit has the biggest patient base, providing better accessibility to the hospital for care and better public transportation access," said VA spokeswoman Judi Cheary.
Designed by the architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls Associates of Detroit, the new facility will be located on 19 acres adjacent to Detroit Medical Center. This location also provides easy access to the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
"We are affiliated with the Wayne State School of Medicine, and being near them will allow for the calibration of both facilities in patient care, as well as maintaining their educational mission as a teaching hospital," Lott said.
The facility will provide a range of medical, surgical and psychiatric services in three main delivery areas: a four-story diagnostic/
treatment section, a five-story psychiatric section and a seven-story medical/surgical section.
The three freestanding buildings are connected by a bridge to an atrium, allowing for the convenient flow of staff, visitors and patients, said Michael Brennan, project manager at Smith, Hinchman & Grylls.
The hospital will have a full-time staff of 1,500 and 200 part-time employees. Additionally, the facility is expected to handle 207,000 ambulatory-care visits per year, Lott said.
In order to retain the Allen Park land originally donated by Clara and Henry Ford for the exclusive purpose of the VA facility, the VA will continue to use the site for a proposed nursing home and outpatient facility.
A proposal submitted by the department in 1993 to build a 300-bed nursing home at the Allen Park site will be considered in 1998 by the VA construction advisory board. Currently, a renovation project is under way for a mental hygiene clinic on the Allen Park site to provide outpatient services to veterans in the lower peninsula of Michigan.
"We are excited about the opportunity to build a hospital in Detroit that represents an opportunity for us to continue to provide great quality care treatment to the veterans in Southeast Michigan," Lott added.
In conjunction with the Art Research Institute of Atlanta, Detroit VA Medical Center integrated "visual therapy" into the design of the new facility. The hospital will include more than 450 photographic images of nature that are designed to ease anxiety and promote healing.
"We provide images that are spatial and dimensional, allowing patients to psychologically escape, whether in their hospital rooms or in the waiting area," said Joey Fischer, ARI's owner.