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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Ground has been broken on an addition at the VA Medical Center complex on Lake Avenue. The three-story building will house a sterilization processing service and space for clinics.

  • ABOVE: Mark Oberley, left, and Dean Williams of Shambaugh & Son install medical gas lines in post-op recovery rooms going in on the hospital’s third floor.

  • LEFT: The addition begun on the medical center’s southeast side is among renovations and expansions that could total $49 million by 2019.

Friday, March 11, 2016 3:39 am

Change builds at VA hospital

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Excavation outside the VA Medical Center is just a hint of the extent of construction work happening at the complex.

While site preparations are being made for a building addition on the southeast side of the medical center, construction crews have gutted and are rebuilding outpatient clinics on the third floor.

They will do the same to fourth-floor inpatient rooms starting in September.

"You’re going to see an incredible amount of construction in the next three years," said Jay Miller, associate director of operations for the Department of Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System.

Miller said ongoing and planned renovations at the Fort Wayne complex could approach $49 million in value by 2019. Projects on the to-do list – dependent upon VA budgets subject to congressional approval – include an emergency department and a parking garage.

Built in 1950, the medical center had been showing its age for some time. After abandoning plans announced in 2009 to replace the facility, VA built a stand-alone mental health clinic and began remodeling parts of the medical center at Lake Avenue and Randallia Drive.

Modernization projects accelerated as VA assigned Miller to handle construction and planning for Northern Indiana. He previously managed facilities at the VA health care system in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Miller and other local VA officials gave The Journal Gazette a tour of the construction areas Thursday.

Ground is torn up on the southeast end of the medical center for what eventually will be a three-story addition. The first phase will be a sterilization processing service. Medical instruments and equipment used by the Fort Wayne facility have been sent to the VA medical center in Marion for sterilization.

After the sterilization service is finished, second and third floors will be added for patient care areas.

Unseen by VA patients and the public is the reconstruction of third-floor clinical rooms.

"Basically it was a full demolition throughout," Miller said.

When completed this year, the space will be home to specialty clinics, including for gastrointestinal medicine, urology and podiatry, and pre-op and post-op rooms for surgery patients.

Construction is expected to begin in September on rebuilding the fourth-floor hospital.

It currently has 11 rooms, four of which have bathrooms. After the revamp, the hospital will have 26 rooms, and each will have a bathroom.

VA Northern Indiana spokeswoman Teresa Calhoun said the inpatient floor will be done in two phases.

"That way we don’t close down any patient beds during construction," she said.

Calhoun noted that extensive renovations are also under way at the Marion medical center, which is part of the VA Northern Indiana system.