Construction of the $121 million building that will house the Veterans Affairs Medical Center is expected to be completed within the next week or two. That means the new hospital in downtown Baltimore should open on schedule Nov. 8, in time to mark Veterans Day with more-spacious surroundings and state-of-the-art technology.
VA engineers will spend the next five months outfitting the seven-story granite building with the equipment needed to make it a functioning hospital.
The hospital on Greene Street, next to the University of Maryland Medical Center, replaces the 40-year-old VA Hospital at Loch Raven Boulevard and the Alameda.
The hospital covers one city block, has three underground parking floors and two huge atria rising six floors to glass skylights.
Among other improvements, the new building will have 324 inpatient beds -- 115 more than the old hospital.
"This will be more modern, more efficient and more effective," Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said yesterday during a hospital tour.
She chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds VA programs.
The new hospital will have the nation's first "filmless" radiology department -- meaning its X-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scans and other radiological images will be stored in the form of digital information rather than pictures on film.
That means images can be viewed instantly at computers elsewhere in the hospital, said VA radiologist Eliot Siegel.
Similarly, images can be sent electronically to consulting physicians at hospitals throughout the nation once they, too, have compatible software.