Commander: Problems resolved so William Beaumont Army Medical Center can finally open July 11

Written by MLHA Team

July 14, 2021

Problems that delayed the new, William Beaumont Army Medical Center from opening in 2020 have been taken care of and the mammoth $1.4 billion complex at Fort Bliss is ready to finally open July 11, the hospital’s commander said Monday.

Hundreds of fire and life-safety problems identified by consultants early this year have been fixed or interim measures have been taken to ensure the safety of patients and staff, Army Col. Michael Oshiki said during and after a Monday press conference.

All regulatory and safety standards have been met to allow the opening, Oshiki said. 

More than 500 life-safety deficiencies were identified in the seven-story, 135-bed hospital building, show a consultant’s report given to Beaumont officials in February. Also, a significant number of life-safety deficiencies were found in other buildings in the six-building complex, said Brad Hartell, project construction manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the Beaumont construction done by two large, national contactors. He did not have the specific number.

Oshiki, wearing green Army fatigues, stood inside a window-walled, grand rotunda inside the main entrance of the complex during the hospital’s second unveiling for the El Paso news media.

The first unveiling came in February 2020 after the complex’s more than six years of construction was officially completed, and the hospital complex turned over to Beaumont officials. The complex was then scheduled to open in September 2020, but delayed to March, and now, to July 11.

The unveiling this time was in a medical complex that now has equipment, furniture and some people already working.

The facility had an original target opening date of April 2017. But years of construction problems and millions of dollars of cost overruns delayed the project. It cost $629 million over the original contract awards.

“I can’t change what transpired in the last two years, since I’ve been here. And I can’t change what happened before that,” Oshiki said after his news conference. “I think there have been a lot of good lessons learned. But the important thing is we’re hitting this mark now where we’re opening the doors and we’re going to be able to utilize this phenomenal medical center.”

The Army Corps’ Hartell said the years of construction and problems aren’t unusual for “a mega project like this.” The entire project took 10 years from design to completion, he said.

Oshiki and other Army officials deem the new Beaumont as the “most technologically advanced medical center in the U.S. Department of Defense.”

With six buildings containing 1.1 million square feet, or the equivalent of 17 football fields, it’s also one of the largest U.S. military medical complexes in the world, Army officials have said. It’s located on 270 acres of Fort Bliss land at Spur 601 and Loop 375 in East El Paso.

Some of the technology was shown to news media members during a tour. That included two cardiac catherization labs allowing for safer and faster, minimally evasive heart procedures, said Maj. Charles Lin, an interventional cardiologist and the hospital’s chief of cardiology. He worked at the old Beaumont for 10 months.

“It’s exciting to move to a new hospital. There’s a lot of advanced equipment here,” he said inside one of the the new, hybrid cath labs.

Beaumont officials did not immediately have the price tag for the complex’s equipment and furniture, which is in addition to its $1.4 billion construction cost.

Army Maj. Marisol Diaz, chief of Beaumont’s maternal services, said the starts and stops with the hospital opening dates brought a lot of challenges. She’s worked at Beaumont for two years.

“The time is now to take patients. We can deliver safe patient care,” she said during a tour of the new Beaumont’s spacious maternity and baby floor.

The hospital is set to open Sunday, July 11, when a contractor specializing in hosptial moves will help move patients from the old Beaumont. The new, much larger emergency department will open at 7 a.m., that day.

The old hospital’s medical clinics will move to two clinic buildings in the new complex from July 12-July 23, Oshiki said.

Dignitaries, including descendants of Dr. William Beaumont, will help dedicate the new complex during a Thursday morning ceremony. They also will mark the 100 years since the opening of the first Fort Bliss hospital bearing Beaumont’s name, Oshiki said.

What’s going to happen to the old Beaumont is not yet known, Oshiki said. The almost 50-year-old hospital is located on Fort Bliss land at 5005 N. Piedras St., in North Central El Paso.

However, plans are in the works to move the Veterans Affairs clinic adjacent to the old hospital to 22 acres at the new Beaumont site, said Michael Amaral, director of the El Paso VA Health System. Design of a 500,000 square-foot building is almost complete, but Congress has not allocated money for the project, he said.

His goal, he said, is to have a new clinic building in operation by 2025.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com@vickolenc on Twitter.

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