Hospital set for upgrade (Rutland Herald)

By Josh O'Gorman

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Vermont's Congressional Delegation announced on Monday that The VA Medical Center has been awarded $900,000 to begin designs for the expansion of its imaging center.

"To remain one of the country's leading VA medical centers, White River Junction needs the latest equipment and facilities," Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a press release. "The new imaging center will create the space to bring in the most technologically advanced diagnostic and treatment sensors, keeping the hospital at the leading edge. It will help provide the state-of-the-art quality care that our veterans deserve."

The design funds will be followed by an additional $6,000,000 for construction next year, said Kenneth Thibodeaux, public affairs officer for the hospital.

"The dollars are all approved at the same time but are allocated under different disbursement cycles," Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux said the hospital was built in 1939 when imaging technology was just developing and mostly confined to X-ray machines. As technology expanded, however, the hospital remained the same size.

The plans call for a 6,996-square-foot addition to building No. 1, which currently houses the hospital's radiology services. In addition to the expansion, 5,303 square feet of the existing radiology department will be modernized with new windows and repairs to the ceiling, walls and floor.

The new imaging center will feature a variety of imaging technology, including radiology, Echo and Ultra sound programs and CT scan, Thibodeaux said. Much of the existing technology will be reused but there are plans to have a full-time MRI machine on the premises.

Thibodeaux said that while the hospital currently offers a service level that is appropriate with standards of care, the expansion will allow imaging machines that are located throughout the building to be housed in one location.

The Veteran's Administration offers an integrated medical system that allows a veteran to obtain treatment at any VA medical center. Thibodeaux said that following the expansion doctors might refer their patients to White River Junction to take advantage of the new facility.

Thibodeaux said construction is expected to begin sometime in late 2008 or early 2009.