Truman Veterans Hospital holds groundbreaking ceremony

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
From left to right: Hunter Hofmann, M.D., Director of Specialty Care Service Line; James Floyd, Director of VA Heartland Network; Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, Director of Truman VA; Richard Schmaltz, M.D., Director of Surgery; Kelly Hequembourg, Project Manager for River City Construction; and Chris Gale, architect; pitch shovels into earth during groundbreaking ceremonies Monday at Pershing Park, which will be the site of the new $25 million OR Replacement/Renovation project.

COLUMBIA — Six gold shovels marked with the Veteran Affairs logo on their blades stood in a row near Pershing Park. Veterans, hospital staff and administrators gathered behind Truman Veterans Hospital early Monday afternoon for groundbreaking on the hospital's biggest renovation ever.

The 27,000 square feet of new space will house larger operating rooms and make room for modern medicine's larger equipment. Part of a three-phase project, the new operating rooms are the first phase, which is expected to be completed in November 2010.

The groundbreaking was originally planned for April, but the project was held up in court when a construction company challenged the bid in February. The entire project is expected to be completed in May 2012.

"It is great that this project is under way," said Sallie Houser-Hanfelder, the director of Truman Veterans Hospital, at the ceremony.

Houser-Hanfelder said that she is hoping the new operating rooms will increase the type of surgeries performed at the hospital. She also said that the $25 million project represents a big commitment by taxpayers and that the project should be done right for them.

The hospital serves veterans in 44 counties throughout Missouri and Pike County, Ill. The hospital had 306,534 outpatient visits and saw 31,422 patients in 2008, and 1,882 surgical procedures have been performed there so far in 2009.

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