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St. Louis VA officials plan massive hospital overhaul

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Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Veterans Affairs Medical Center-John Cochran Division main entrance in Grand Center.

The St. Louis Veterans Administration Health System plans to extensively renovate and overhaul the John Cochran Veterans Hospital in Grand Center, adding multiple new buildings.

The plans call for 700,000 square feet of new building space, including a 142-room tower with private inpatient rooms.

The overhaul, which likely would cost more than $1 billion and take decades to complete, would help the VA better meet the preferences and needs of the nearly 72,000 veterans it serves.

But the St. Louis hospital will first need federal officials to sign off on the massive project.

“Ultimately, funding is at the whim, if you will, of Congress,” St. Louis VA Deputy Director Fabian Grabski said. “So that being said, I have great confidence that ultimately, this will be funded.”

When the hospital was built in the 1950s, it was common for patients to share rooms. But today, many patients expect to have private rooms, Grabski said.

Ultimately the plan would take years to complete, he said.

“This is what we're calling phase one in a two-decade process,” he said. “So as we're going through the design process now, we are ensuring we're thinking 20 years down the road.”

The multibuilding plan also would triple the size of the emergency department, create more operating room space and upgrade parking and utilities. The campus would be designed to better withstand earthquakes — a necessary precaution for a hospital on Missouri’s New Madrid Fault, Grabski said.

In the event of a national emergency like an earthquake, the Cochran Hospital is expected to treat civilians and veterans alike, he said.

VA officials didn’t give a cost for the planned renovation but said it would be similar to that of the NGA headquarters being built on the city’s north side for $1.7 billion.

For the St. Louis agency to secure the necessary funding, it must win approval from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington. Congress will need to approve the appropriation, Grabski said. Federal VA officials have rated the funding for the new hospital as the highest priority for the agency, he said.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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