Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
VA Medical Center
For decades, tens of thousands of Southern Nevada veterans seeking medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs had to navigate a complex web of primary care, ambulatory care and specialist offices spread across 20 locations throughout the valley. The VA shared a hospital with the Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base, and some veterans had to travel as far as Southern California to receive needed care.
By the end of the year, the long drives and headaches should be a thing of the past, as the VA’s services are consolidated to its new, 151-acre campus in North Las Vegas.
After six years of construction, the $600 million Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 6900 N. Pecos Road, will begin taking patients on Aug. 14.
“It’s going to change (veterans’) opportunity for health care. Every service that we currently offer is going to be expanded,” said John Bright, director of the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. “We’ll have a whole litany of new services that will be in-house that we’ve never had before. ... There’s almost nothing we won’t be able to do inside these walls.”
Specialty clinics on the first floor of the six-story building, which covers more than 1 million square feet, will open first; other services will come online throughout the year.
The VA currently serves about 46,000 of Southern Nevada’s 240,000 veterans and is expected to serve 60,000 when the hospital opens.
Although the building is finished, equipment is still being moved in and tested, Bright said. Officials hope that by January, the 90 in-patient beds at the hospital will be filled and the operation will be running at full capacity.
“Over the last few months it’s just been fast and furious bringing things through the door,” Bright said. “It’s going to take a while to get everything open. ... By the first of the year, we expect to be a fully functioning hospital.”
It will be the first-ever VA hospital in Southern Nevada and the first new VA hospital to open in nearly 20 years. Similar VA hospitals are under construction in New Orleans, Denver and Orlando, Fla.
Nevada’s state-of-the-art facility will be able to offer surgery, specialty care, mental health services, rehabilitation and extended care. The complex also includes a 120-bed skilled nursing home care facility and an ambulatory care center.
The medical center will be the hub of a health care network that also includes four new primary care centers located in the northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest corners of the valley. The clinics offer patient care, pharmacies, X-rays, labs, social workers and some mental health attention.
In all, about $1 billion was spent on the hospital, the primary care centers, equipment and staffing, Bright said.
The VA will have a dedication ceremony for the new hospital at 9:30 a.m. Monday. The event is open to the public, but space is limited and attendees are advised to arrive early, Bright said.