VA Adds to Downtown Strengths

January 05, 1993

When the new $121 million Veterans Affairs Medical Center opens later this month, it will add to Baltimore's systematic emphasis on health care research, delivery -- and cooperation.

The 324-bed acute medical and surgical care facility on Greene Street is next to the University of Maryland Medical System complex. Both institutions share staff and services. An overhead bridge connects the two.

When planning began on replacing the antiquated VA hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard, we opposed the idea. We were concerned about adding to the glut of area hospital beds at a time of an acute shortage of nurses. We preferred a voucher system so veterans could use the services of existing hospitals, thereby aiding the survival of private-sector health care providers. The glitzy VA Medical Center now has a chance to prove us wrong.

Few hospitals -- even private ones -- can boast such opulent surroundings as the new Baltimore VA Medical Center. Its pink-flecked granite exterior hides what's inside -- two atriums rising six stories to glass skylights and a tropical garden.

Each of the single or double patient rooms has a view. Unobtrusive ceiling antennas permit such technological advances as individual patient monitors. Digitalized medical archives -- first in the nation -- can be read throughout the building. The hospital will be the first in Maryland to provide magnetic resonance imaging and mammography for women veterans.

When this hospital opens Jan. 24, the Loch Raven center will be turned over to a variety of private uses, including a nursing home. An out-patient satellite at the Fallon Federal Building will be closed. The new out-patient clinic -- which each year will serve 200,000 veterans -- will be three times larger than the one at Loch Raven.

With 1,100 employees, the VA Medical Center will add life to UniversityCenter, bounded by Saratoga and Eutaw streets and Martin Luther King Boulevard. That area includes Ridgely's Delight and a number of loft apartments. Oriole Park stands to the south. The ultra-modern VA hospital has the potential to add much to the community, especially to its sister medical center next door.

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