Lake City's VA hospital is adding 40 beds


Published: Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 31, 2006 at 10:43 p.m.
About three years ago, Columbia County officials were focused on keeping the hospital doors open on the 82-year-old Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Later this year, the doors will open wider than ever when a $2.5 million expansion is completed at the hospital, providing 40 more beds.
"This is space that we really need as soon as possible," said spokeswoman Mary Kay Hollingsworth.
In addition to adding beds in Lake City by renovating existing space, the Department of Veterans Affairs is in the planning phase of a 230-bed addition at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville. The $85.2 million Gainesville project involves constructing towers over the existing hospital building and is expected to be complete by 2009.
The need for additional medical space for veterans is evident when looking at VA health care records released by the federal government.
In 2001, about 84,770 veterans received medical care from the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health Services, which serves 37 North Florida and 19 South Georgia counties. During 2005, the number of veterans receiving medical care from the system had grown to more than 119,500. Not all of the veterans needed to be hospitalized, and most were served in outpatient clinics in Lake City, Gainesville or other affiliated clinics.
"But many of our veterans do require hospitalization and we want to have the beds available for them," Hollingsworth said.
The construction project will nearly double the beds available in Lake City from 46 to 86 and will more than double the beds available in Gainesville from 220 to 460.
Local officials said they expect payroll and local spending by the hospitals to at least increase by 50 percent when the facility begins filling the new beds.
Karen Voyles can be reached at 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com

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