Denver VA versus Dallas Parkland

Issue Briefs | Health

No. 178
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
by Jennifer Vermeulen

Denver and Dallas both had aging public hospitals in need of replacement: one served the most vulnerable of the city’s population, the other served the most valiant. The Veterans’ Administration (VA) hospital in the Denver suburb of Aurora, currently $1 billion over budget, remains incomplete after a decade of planning and construction.

The Dallas project was a joint public-private venture that delivered the new Parkland hospital largely on-time and on-budget. The projects in Denver and Dallas illustrate the consequences of projects managed exclusively by a federal agency versus projects managed with a high degree of taxpayer accountability.

A Tale of Two Cities. In the late 1990s, the VA hospital in Denver, Colorado, was run-down, crowded and outdated. The understaffed hospital struggled to serve a growing population of veterans. Additionally, federal personnel rules made it difficult to hire more doctors, nurses and vital support staff. As a result, many of the 400,000 veterans in Colorado chose to seek treatment at VA hospitals in other states.

In 1894, the original Parkland Hospital was built in Dallas to serve the young city’s indigent population.2 Parkland has since become one of the busiest hospitals in the United States, nationally ranking No. 6 for births per year and operating the nation’s second-largest burn unit. Faced with increasing demand and struggling to meet modern accreditation standards, Parkland’s board of directors embarked on a new project to replace the existing facility.

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