Included in the FY 2021 budget submitted to Congress Monday is a $120 million federal appropriation for a Veterans Hospital in Tulsa (VHiT). The inclusion of the funds is the result of an unprecedented collaboration among the federal government, State of Oklahoma, City of Tulsa, private philanthropy and Oklahoma State University.
The VHiT project would convert the Kerr Edmondson Building into a modern 275,000 square-foot, 58-bed medical-surgical hospital. The Kerr Edmondson Building is owned by the state and located next to the OSU Medical Center, one of the largest osteopathic teaching hospitals in the nation. This is a unique opportunity to secure a large and important veteran resource, operated by the VA, but developed by and for the local community.
Oklahoma’s U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and James Lankford, along with Oklahoma U.S. House of Representative members Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern, signed the original application for the project and led the effort to prioritize it for Oklahoma’s veterans.
“I am proud of Oklahomans uniting together to serve our veterans more effectively and efficiently. This hospital will be a perfect use of the Kerr Edmondson buildings, and the partnership with OSU Medicine will ensure greater access to specialty physicians. This is a true example of how we can leverage public-private partnerships in order to ensure we are providing our veterans with the quality care and support they deserve, and I am thankful for the collaboration of all involved, especially U.S. Senators Inhofe and Lankford,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“This is about building a healthcare system that will meet the needs of veterans in Eastern Oklahoma now and for decades to come,” said Mark E. Morgan, Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System director. “We are truly thankful for the support and collaborative effort from our congressional and community stakeholders, including the offices of Senators Inhofe and Lankford; Representatives Mullin and Hern; Governor Stitt; [Tulsa] Mayor G.T. Bynum; Oklahoma State University; The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation; and my staff.”
The total cost of the project construction is estimated at $173 million with the federal government investing approximately $120 million. The state would finalize transfer of the Kerr Edmondson facility and site, the city would commit $8 million toward site and parking improvements. Private donors would cover the balance of funds for the project.
“Our champions in the Senate, Dr. [Kayse] Shrum’s leadership at OSU, the City of Tulsa, the state, other private donors – everyone has played vital roles in achieving this unprecedented partnership,” said Judy Zarrow Kishner, president of The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, which has pledged to lead the private-support effort and underwrite the initial planning costs for the project.
Oklahoma State University Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoma State University Regents, and Oklahoma State University Medical Authority played a significant role aiding the all-important collaboration between the University Medical Center and the Eastern Oklahoma VA Healthcare System.
“Through our medical school in Tulsa, Oklahoma State University is pleased to be part of this community-led partnership to create a modern, dedicated hospital to care for our wonderful veterans. This unprecedented project is the result of visionary community, state and federal leadership, particularly our two U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford. We are fortunate to have exceptional leadership at our medical school in Dr. Kayse Shrum, who supports the efforts of the VA to find ways in which to address the unique medical needs of Oklahoma veterans. Our strong relationship with the military at Oklahoma State University makes our involvement in this endeavor even more special and meaningful,” said OSU President Burns Hargis.
“Thanks to the efforts of our Oklahoma delegation we’ll be able to serve our veterans and our medical students in an unprecedented way. Senators Inhofe and Lankford have paved the way to improve health care access and outcomes in Oklahoma and I am incredibly thankful for their leadership,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, OSU Health Sciences Center president.
The VA application process is made possible by the Congressional CHIP-IN for Veterans Act of 2016 (Communities Helping Invest through Properties and Improvements Needed for Veterans). The Act allows local communities to serve as developers for health care facilities that are stated VA priorities.
“While the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center will continue to be the light upon the hill in Muskogee, this exciting new addition, once completed, will allow us to expand needed behavioral health, rehabilitation and potentially long-term care for the veterans of Eastern Oklahoma and across the state,” said Morgan.
The strategic partnerships such as the one formed in Tulsa allow the Veteran Administration a pathway to build facilities more efficiently and quicker than traditional approaches. Local communities are in a better position to identify the most advantageous site, ensure service collaboration and better oversee construction costs and deadlines in their local markets.
“The City of Tulsa is dedicated to building a community where veterans are honored for their service and sacrifice with economic opportunity, quality healthcare and public support. Building this VA hospital in Tulsa will improve access and ensure the highest quality care for our veterans in eastern Oklahoma,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Jane Braden | OSU spokesperson | firstname.lastname@example.org | 405.818.1905
Hannah Jackson | The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation | email@example.com | 918.606.8721