If you have visited the Tomah VA Medical Center, you will have noticed multiple construction projects and rerouting of entrances ongoing. This is part of a major renovation plan to bring the Tomah VA Medical Center into the 21st Century. Many of the original building were built in the early 1900s and while they are still solid structures, they are showing their age and are in need of some facelifts. According to Acting Associate Director, Bryan Prahl, “By reinvesting in the Medical Center, the efforts are focused on providing a higher quality of care for the veterans and making the Tomah VA Medical Center the hospital of choice.”
One of the first new improvements outside that you will notice is a large directional sign and vehicle pull off area, as you enter the facility, near Building 400, the central structure. With multiple buildings on the 174 acre campus, it can get a little confusing on where to go for a particular service. Old service members will remember hospital wards with colored lines in the hallways, to lead you to your intended destinations. This new signage will help alleviate that problem and assist visitors on reaching the correct location. Two additional lighted signs called “way points” are on campus, giving visitors additional information on the locations of particular services and special seasonal events.
Large scaffolding has been placed on the outside of Building 400, to assist workers in the upgrading of the building’s exterior. While solid in construction, the mortar joints in brick buildings tend to deteriorate over time. A method, called tuck pointing, replaces the mortar joints and will help in resealing the exterior walls. At the same time, work is being done to restore the iconic white tower on Building 400, by replacing weather damaged wood, weatherproofing and reapplying a complete paint job, to preserve the tower for years to come. Since many of these buildings are on the national and state historical register, great care must be taken during the modernization process, to maintain the original look of the buildings.
The inside of the buildings is where much of the work is being done to modernize and to provide up-to-date facilities to the patients that the medical center supports. The boilers, which provide both heat and hot water for the entire campus, were reaching their end-of-life use. The newly installed energy-efficient boilers will provide more efficient heat at a lower cost. In addition, the entire heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC), in the outpatient mental health Building 404, has been replaced, giving the facility a more comfortable atmosphere.
Building 400 serves as the main building, where most patients start their journey through the VA system. This is where the primary and urgent care facilities are located. The urgent care is receiving an additional 5,000 square feet (sf) of care facilities, by expanding the facility to the east. Another 4,000 sf and 3,000 sf are being added to the common areas and specialty care clinics, respectively as well. One of the new features will be additional rooms, outfitted especially for the growing number of female service members.
New modern equipment is being installed in the radiology room and another historical site, the radiology waiting room, known affectionately as the “blue room.” Keeping the historical layout of the room, while providing the most modern facilities and equipment, is the goal of the project. Elsewhere, in the specimen laboratory, a must stop for most patients on the way to their physical exams, are new chemical and blood analysis machines.
Building 407, where the pharmacy is located, is getting another upgrade, primarily on the third floor. One will notice the temporarily plastic-covered windows, which are due to be replaced. This renovated area will include the new electronic health record systems, designed to provide health care givers and veterans immediate updates to their medical conditions. The renovation will provide classrooms for health care personnel, to train them in the new system and later be converted into other usable space.
So, while you may experience some temporary construction noise and rerouting, as you negotiate the new traffic patterns, take heart. The Veterans Administration is making huge strides to provide quality and modern facilities to serve our nation’s veteran population.
A special Thanks to Dori Camacho Torres, of the Tomah VA Medical Center for her assistance in this article.
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