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VA Credits Orlando Hospital Construction with Valuable Lessons, Despite Delays and Cost Overruns

May 8, 2013 | WMFE - Orlando's VA hospital is one of four nationwide that has experienced long delays and massive cost overruns, government auditors told a US House panel Tuesday. But officials from the Veterans Affairs Department say they have learned valuable lessons from building the Orlando facility, even though its doors are not yet open.

[Image: A recent view of Lake Nona's VA hospital construction site]

Construction of the Orlando-area Lake Nona VA hospital was expected to cost $254 million, but that figure now stands at $616 million and the medical center will open more than three years late. That’s according to a report from the Government Accountability Office presented Tuesday as the US House Veterans' Affairs Committee oversight panel questioned VA officials about delays and cost overruns in the construction of four major veterans' hospitals across the country.

The other facilities are located in Las Vegas, Denver and New Orleans. The construction delays are running an average of 35 months behind schedule, and all four are a combined $1.5 billion dollars over budget, according to the Government Accountability Office report. 

But Glenn Haggstrom, who heads the VA's Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, told the panel that changes are on the way. He said Orlando’s hospital is furthest along, and its troubles have helped the VA improve its building procedures overall. 

He said the VA will increase its oversight, so that no other facility will repeat Orlando’s expensive series of design revisions brought on by changes in the type of medical equipment VA officials wanted in the hospital. 

The VA will also focus on clearer communication with the construction companies working on its medical centers, said Haggstrom. The building process in Orlando has been marred with disputes between VA officials and the project's main contractor, Brasfield & Gorrie. 

The construction company estimates that the entire Lake Nona hospital will be open in the spring of next year.


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