Colorado's Republican Congressman Mike Coffman did not hold back in his questioning of VA officials about the overdue and over-budget VA hospital, which will open in Aurora this summer.
Rep. Mike Coffman confirmed the Aug. 11 opening date on his Twitter account on Tuesday morning, the day before he would question VA officials in a congressional hearing titled, "The Denver Replacement Medical Center: Light at the End of the Tunnel?"
Based on his questioning of the officials at the hearing, it appears that Rep. Coffman did not get the answers he was hoping for, and instead called for the head of the VA to "clean house."
It turns out the old VA facility near 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard will need to be kept and leased to house primary care facilities, something Coffman Tweeted Congress only learned about "recently, despite multiple hearings on this matter."
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Part of the reason the old facility will still be leased: there simply isn't enough space in the new, $2 billion hospital.
The new VA has 34 primary care exam rooms. The old VA medical center has 60.
When Coffman asked the VA's Executive Director from the Office of Construction and Facilities Management, Stella Fiotes, why the new, multi-billion dollar medical center will not be able to accommodate primary care facilities and Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT), Fiotes said they did not know about PACT teams while designing the hospital.
"When the design was developed in 2009-2010, there were no PACT teams," Fiotes said. "At the time, the medical center and the construction entities believed that the project was sized to accommodate the necessary primary care clinics."
The new VA facility is double the square footage, but houses the same number of beds.
WATCH: Coffman gets spicy at Congressional hearing
The current VA hospital can handle 20 PACT teams for primary care, whereas the new one will house 12. That means seven to eight teams will have to stay at the old VA.
The new hospital will also lack new PTSD or Community Living Center facilities.
Rep. Coffman voiced his displeasure at the lack of PTSD facilities to Fiotes.
Fiotes: "I believe PTSD was taken out of the scope of the project before the final appropriation of authorization."
Coffman: "Do you know why?"
Fiotes: "I do not recall exactly."
Coffman: "I just don't know how you cannot have answers to these questions and be in the position that you're in."
Fiotes: "Again Congressman, I'm going by what I heard, not what I experienced. I believe that PTSD was removed at the time of the authorization appropriation to bring the cost down."
The project, which is opening years behind schedule, will have cost a total of nearly $2 billion. That's nearly triple a 2014 estimate.
A PTSD clinic and Community Living Center were supposed to be part of the new campus, but Congress did not authorize the money to let the VA break ground on those buildings, as part of cost-cutting because of the overruns.
During the hearing, the VA's Rocky Mountain Network Director, Ralph Gigliotti, said the projected cost of a new PTSD facility is $13 million, higher than the $10 million threshold Congress is willing to allow.
Gigliotti said instead of the Aurora VA facility housing the PTSD clinic, the VA has leased space in other clinics across the state.
Coffman grew frustrated at what he called a lack of transparency.
"Mr. Gigliotti, you stated that you've been transparent in this entire process, and I want to argue that you haven't been transparent and that the VA hasn't been transparent," Coffman said. "Because of the fact in all of the hearings that we've had, the issue of keeping the old hospital open to house primary care outpatient services was never discussed, was never brought forward by the VA. So, this whole notion that you've been transparent is absolutely false because you've all known for years."
"I thought we'd been transparent with the issue of the challenges with the PACT team capacity of the new facility. I'll have to look into that, sir, if we haven't been transparent," Gigliotti said.
Gigliotti also said there is no confirmation that this new VA facility will lower wait times.
Coffman continued to lay into the VA personnel at the hearing.
"You've either not answered or evaded a number of questions today that are very basic to this particular construction project. I am just absolutely amazed at your lack of professionalism in not understanding the origins of this project and how you can assume leadership over something that you seem to go out of your way not to understand," Coffman said.
In 2016, federal investigators called the delays and lax oversight over the hospital's construction "gross mismanagement."
"There seems to be an awful lot you just don't know," Coffman added.
He then called for the leader of the VA, and President Trump, to "clean house."
David Jonathon Shulkin is the current United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
"I will ask Dr. Shulkin and ask the President to clean house and that's what he should have done from day one, and it hasn't been done," Coffman said.