SACRAMENTO: Mather VA Hospital to See Happy Ending
Beginning next week, the Veterans Administration will take bids for expansion projects that will more than double Mather Field medical center's capacity, giving Sacramento-area veterans greater access to health care. The announcement is welcome news because it comes in the aftermath of several recent military base closures and the approaching close of McClellan Air Force Base. Said Rob Leonard, executive director of the Sacramento County Department of Military Base Conversion, "We have a victory in that we have the veteran community benefiting, along with productive use of that building in a way that is complementary to what we are trying to do at Mather and McClellan." The $48 million construction project, slated to begin next spring and conclude by 2003, calls for a 120,000 square-foot tower to house 55 patient beds, including a 10-bed intensive care unit, a 24-hour urgent care center, operating rooms and an endoscopy center. Upon completion of the tower, a second project will replace the old facility with 69,000 square feet for primary care, outpatient surgery and ancillary services, and renovate an additional 85,000 square feet of existing outpatient clinic space.
Serving Local Need
Mather Field closed in 1993, but the VA assumed control of the hospital last year. Administrators opted to expand the facility after abandoning plans to expand the medical center at Travis Air Force Base and reviewing demographic information on the local veteran population. Sacramento has more veterans per capita that almost any other region in the country: By official estimates, there are 150,000 veterans in a 25-mile radius of the hospital who would be able to access services after the expansion. Only 10% are currently being served. As a growing number of local bases have closed, area vets have been sent to VA hospitals in Reno, San Francisco and Palo Alto, as well as some private hospitals through special contracts. But plans to expand Mather should bring some of those patients back, according to projections that the hospital's 1998 patient volume of 110,000 will double once the new tower is complete (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 9/22).