$120 million in federal funding approved for new veterans hospital in Tulsa
Monday, December 28, 2020
First announced in February 2020 as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 President’s Budget
submitted to Congress, the $120 million federal appropriation to build a new veterans
hospital in Tulsa was approved by Congress on Dec. 21 and signed into law by President
Trump yesterday. The project, Veterans Hospital in Tulsa (VHiT), is the work of a collaboration among
the federal government, state of Oklahoma, city of Tulsa, private philanthropy, and
Oklahoma State University.
The new veterans hospital will be located in downtown Tulsa at 7th and Houston on the expanded OSU Medical Center Campus. The effort will convert the existing Kerr-Edmondson Buildings on the site into a modern 275,000 square-foot, 58-bed medical-surgical hospital for veterans. The partially occupied Kerr-Edmondson Buildings have been owned by the state of Oklahoma and are being transferred to OSU/A&M Regents by the state for the purpose of the hospital project.
Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences, said making sure our veterans receive the very best care is the least that can be done to honor them for their service.
"Our Veterans in northeast Oklahoma deserve a much-needed, easily accessible modern medical center where they can receive quality, compassionate care in a timely manner. For OSU-CHS, it’s been a great privilege to be part of this visionary project,” she said. "While caring for veterans is a top priority, the affiliation with the Veteran Affairs Hospital near our Tulsa campus will benefit our students and residents tremendously and further enhance our medical school nationally. Many physicians in practice today benefited from training at a Veteran Affairs hospital. After years of hard work and relentless determination by many civic leaders in Tulsa and local, state, and federal elected officials, we have achieved one of the most significant milestones, the funding for this project. We look forward to the start of construction and the completion of the project."
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. The proximity to OSU’s academic healthcare facilities will support a number of opportunities for collaboration, joint physician appointments, increased medical residencies, and shared services, all of which will improve ease and efficiency for veterans.
Oklahoma’s United States Senators James Inhofe and James Lankford along with U.S. Representatives Markwayne Mullin and Kevin Hern, each strongly supported the original application for the new veterans hospital project and led the effort to prioritize this project for Oklahoma’s veterans.
“This project is special to Oklahoma State University,” said Burns Hargis, president of OSU. “We have great respect for the women and men who have served and are serving our country in defense of liberty and the pursuit of peace. We enjoy a longstanding relationship with the military, proudly graduating many students who become leaders in our armed forces. The approval of the federal funding for this project represents a significant achievement and step forward in reaching our shared goal to provide our veterans in northeast Oklahoma with an exceptional medical facility to care for them. We also appreciate the generosity of The Zarrow Family Foundations. Without their unwavering support, this project would never have proceeded. Lastly, I recognize the leadership of Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of the OSU-Center for Health Sciences, for her visionary leadership in bringing this project forward.”
More than two-thirds of the 47,000 veterans who receive services at the current Jack C. Montgomery Medical Center in Muskogee come from the Tulsa metro area. Of the 115,400-plus veterans in the Eastern Oklahoma VA area, approximately 68% are closer to Tulsa than to Muskogee, leading planners to estimate the new hospital could serve up to 30% (or 14,000) more veterans annually.
The Eastern Oklahoma VA Healthcare System has initiated plans to convert the Jack C. Montgomery Medical Center in Muskogee into a much-needed regional facility for behavioral health, rehabilitation, and potentially long-term care for veterans in Oklahoma and surrounding states.
The total cost of construction for the Veterans Hospital in Tulsa is estimated at $130 million, funded by the $120 million appropriation and $10 million in philanthropic support. The state of Oklahoma has finalized transfer of the Kerr-Edmondson property valued at $35 million, and the city of Tulsa has committed $8 million toward a parking garage for the veterans hospital.
The collaborative, community-driven project 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 healthcare facilities that are stated VA priorities.
The strategic CHIP-IN partnerships such as the one formed in Tulsa allows the Veteran Administration a pathway to build facilities more efficiently and quickly 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.
Construction is slated to be completed and turned over to the VA for outfitting by late 2023 and open to patients in late 2024.