Lawmakers criticize VA on Fla. hospital delays

Lawmakers criticize VA on Fla. hospital delays

WASHINGTON — Contractors building a new veterans hospital in Orlando told a congressional panel Tuesday that the complex — already months behind schedule — will be delayed longer and could cost more than $100 million extra to finish.

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs have acknowledged it will be at least the summer of 2013 before the doors open at the 134-bed hospital in Lake Nona, which broke ground four years ago and is expected to serve thousands of Brevard veterans.

The complex, which includes an outpatient clinic, a 120-bed community living center and a 60-bed domiciliary, was supposed to open in October at a cost of $665 million.

Tuesday, contractors working on the project said it “definitely” won’t open by next summer, either. During a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, they blamed delays on the agency’s incomplete plans, a flurry of last-minute changes beyond their control and a slow bureaucracy that takes months sometimes to resolve seemingly minor issues.

“We’re trying to work and we’re running into obstacles everywhere we turn,” said Miller Gorrie, chairman of Brasfield & Gorrie, the Alabama construction firm that won $336.4 million in contracts to build the hospital and several other features in the complex.

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