SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls VA Hospital is undergoing some dramatic changes right now to the tune of about $70 million. From restoring an old chapel on the campus built before World War II to creating a new medical lab to the main structure added just after that same war, a lot of work is being done to restore and modernize the facility.
It’s hard to miss when you’re traveling through central Sioux Falls. This huge building, the Sioux Falls VA Medical Center, really stands out on dozens of acres along West 22nd St.
Upgrades over the years have been few and far between according to Facility Planner Crystal Dobbins. But now, that’s all changing.
“Part of it is we’re just an old building and for a long time the funding wasn’t there or we didn’t apply for the projects. We finally started to do some facelifts to the hospital and put a lot of money into infrastructure and just updating the hospital in general,” Dobbins said.
The idea of a hospital here took hold during World War II. The VA purchased the land in 1944. It was originally Columbus College. The college’s chapel, from the 1920s, was right here where we’re walking. Dobbins says one of the current construction projects will soon bring it back to life.
“Our old chapel which was part of Columbus College is going to turn into our auditorium. So we’re going to restore all the old woodwork in the ceiling and the pulpit and we’re going to turn that into the auditorium. It’s going to be a large gathering space for Veterans for education. That’s a two-part project. Once we finish the chapel piece, we’re going to back renovate where the existing auditorium is on fourth and make that a brand new prosthetic space,” Dobbins said.
A $5 million halls and walls project is sprucing up what Veterans will see when they’re at the hospital. That includes new paint, floors, ceilings and more in the VA’s nursing home.
“Removing some of the old material from the hallways and the common areas and the rooms that the patients are in. Putting new product on it,” carpenter, Veteran Kerry Janecek said.
As we were touring the nursing home, known as the Community Living Center, we ran into a Veteran proud to be upgrading the space. Kerry Janecek is a carpenter and a Navy Veteran. He can’t wait for other Vets to see the finished product. He’s also excited for the hospital’s staff, many of which have also served in the armed forces.
“Get to know all the people here working in the area. The nurses, the people that work here, they appreciate it too,” Janecek said.
Janecek says he’s fascinated with the concrete masonry and the detail work on the hospital’s exterior. Part of that exterior is changing to make way for a multi-million dollar medical lab.
“So the lab hasn’t had an upgrade in 20 years so we’re going to build a brand new lab facility and it’s about 30-percent bigger than what they currently have so it will be a nice addition to the hospital,” Dobbins said.
The fifth floor is also being renovated to create more space for minor surgery suites and offices. Veterans’ mental health care, an important aspect of services here in 2020, is also getting a new facility.
“Currently our mental health staff don’t have the space that they adequately need. This is going to be a 15,000 square foot brand new outpatient building for our outpatient mental health patients. So we’re super excited about that,” Dobbins said.
Dobbins works on a lot of the applications that brings in federal funding for these projects. She works hard on them because the hospital holds a special place in her heart.
“My grandpa was a patient on the CLC here and my dad is a patient here and so I take a lot of pride in the work that I do. I enjoy the construction planning because I want this hospital to look just like it does at Sanford or Avera. They should have the same facilities and I believe in a lot of what we do here and I take it to heart,” Dobbins said.
Taking care of Veterans in a modern way and she says there’s more to come.
Dobbins says other projects that are getting funded include a new $18 million front entrance, an addition to the primary care unit and a nursing home hospice cottage.