TOPEKA, Kan. — The Topeka Veteran Affairs’ hospital is planning a $4.5 million modernization project this fall.

Internal emails obtained by the Topeka Capital-Journal show that the project entails expanding the emergency department into the facility’s specialty clinic, which has moved to another location. It also includes private patient bays, a central physician and nursing hub, and a dedicated waiting space for families.

Chief of staff Alexander Hallock said the project will increase space, access, privacy and help deliver on suicide prevention.

Hallock said funds have already been allocated for the two-year project.

The project comes as the hospital struggles with a staffing shortage. The emergency room was closed from January 2014 to late June 2015 because of the shortage.

“I think there’s a staffing shortage in health care across the country, especially in the Midwest,” Hallock said. “We have a shortage of primary care providers, we have a shortage of emergency department providers, we have a huge shortage in psychiatrists.”

Less than 50 physicians are currently assigned to the Topeka VA, according to physician recruiter James Pryan.

Last month, the eastern Kansas VA system initiated the Physicians Ambassador Program, which uses volunteer, retired doctors.

“We have people in the pipeline that are there and that’s another mechanism that we are touting out to those physicians in the community,” Hallock said. “You want to keep your skills, come and volunteer with us. Be a physician ambassador from the community and show the veterans how much you care about what they have done for you.”

Hallock said the modernization project will help attract employees to the system.

The women’s health department also will be upgraded through a grant. The project is expected to double services for female veterans.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com