Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
VA Medical Center
The new Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Las Vegas is inching closer to providing assistance to the 45,000 veterans who now get their medical services at VA institutions spread throughout the valley.
The $600 million, 1.3 million-square-foot complex being built at 6900 N. Pecos Road is scheduled to open in August. When it does, it will be the first VA hospital in Southern Nevada. It also is the first VA hospital to be built in the United States since the end of the Gulf War.
Steve Stern, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System spokesman and capital asset manager, said that when the medical center is fully operational, it will house 210 beds for surgeries, mental health and extended-care patients, and in its intensive care unit.
The medical center will employ 1,800 to 2,000 people and become a focal point in the valley for the VA, which has been disjointed for some time, Stern said.
“The veterans have waited a long time for this,” he said. “Our patients are already established; they are just being treated in about 20 locations versus trying to get everything into one location.”
Though those 20 locations serve about 45,000 veterans, there are more than 200,000 veterans in Nevada, according to the VA.
The state-of-the-art facility will feature advanced electronics systems, computerized patient records, and automated digital media systems that can broadcast medical information into waiting rooms and classrooms, Stern said. Similar VA hospitals are currently under construction in New Orleans, Denver and Orlando, Fla.
“A lot of the focus is the patient center care, the educational opportunities, the research capabilities, and some very incredible diagnostic and treatment capabilities,” Stern said. “We’re able to deal with a much broader scope of disabilities and injuries.”
Another innovative feature will be advanced operating rooms with hybrid CT scanning equipment, which will allow surgeons performing operations to see the vessels they are repairing in real time.
Along with sophisticated technology, the hospital will have improved security measures. As the first VA hospital built after the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina and Sept. 11, Stern said security was an important part of its construction.
No cars can park closer than 50 feet from the building. The complex also has the capability to remain fully operational in the event of a loss of public utilities with six large generators able to provide full emergency power, 1 million gallons of reserve water supplies and wastewater storage capacity for up to four days.
North Las Vegas and VA officials hope one day the complex will be surrounded by medical-related businesses and, possibly, a north campus for UNLV. Although the university is still examining the possible use of the 2,009-acre parcel of federal land across from the hospital, there is little chance it will build a campus anytime soon, said Terri Sheridan, North Las Vegas economic development administrator.
City officials, though, still believe that in the long run the area will become a major center of activity for economically hard-hit North Las Vegas.
“It’s going to play a pivotal role for our city to look for other insular medical uses,” Sheridan said. “A medical cluster is part of our strategic plan for the city. The focus is there.”
As part of the VA’s initiative to better serve veterans and improve access to doctors in Southern Nevada, four new primary care clinics, situated in each quadrant of the city, also have been built. Clinics are operating in the southeast, southwest and northwest valley, with a northeast clinic at 4461 East Charleston Blvd. opening this week.
The clinics offer patient care, pharmacies, X-rays, labs, social workers and some mental health attention. Stern said a clinic is located within 10 minutes of every veteran in the valley.
VA spokesman Dave Martinez said the clinics, as well as the new hospital, aid the valley’s 2,221 homeless and 21,730 veterans who suffer from mental health diseases like depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
“We’re really trying to adapt the way we practice medicine to what the patient needs,” said Stern. “A lot of the VA’s mission is to bring a veteran to their highest level of ability, whatever their injury, whatever their disability.”