A nonprofit backed by influential Omaha business leaders has committed $30 million to a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs to build an ambulatory care clinic on the grounds of the Omaha VA hospital.
Heritage Services — which developed local landmarks such as the Holland Performing Arts Center and TD Ameritrade Park — voted late Tuesday to back the clinic through a new nonprofit called the Veterans Ambulatory Center Development Corporation.
The project would pool $56 million previously appropriated by Congress with the $30 million raised locally to build the complex for the VA Nebraska/Western Iowa Health Care System on its campus near 42nd Street and Woolworth Avenue. VA officials have said it would offer primary, specialty and ambulatory care as well as radiology and surgery suites. It would be built to the northeast of the current hospital entrance.
“This project is born out of duty to help those who have risked so much to save our country,” said Walter Scott Jr., co-founder of Heritage Services and chairman of the new nonprofit, in a press release. “Our main goal is to make sure this facility gets built and becomes a model for other Veterans Affairs medical facilities across the country.”
Scott, former CEO of Peter Kiewit Sons Inc., is one of Omaha heavy hitters behind Heritage Services, along with Mike Yanney, chairman emeritus of Burlington Capital, and Mike McCarthy, of the investment firm McCarthy Capital.
VA officials had earlier estimated the cost of building the clinic at $136 million, of which $80 million would be raised locally. Spokesmen for the VA Omaha and Heritage Services declined to address questions about the scope of the project or explain the lower pricetag — though in an interview a year ago, Yanney said he thought the clinic could be built for less than the projected amount.
Nebraska’s congressional delegation had fought for years for a replacement for the aging Omaha VA hospital, which was built in 1950. Then-Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., had secured Senate approval of a $56 million down payment to design the facility in 2011, but the project foundered because of cost overruns on other VA construction projects.
During the past two years, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., pushed the idea of a public-private partnership to break the logjam. Legislation allowing such a partnership, called the CHIP IN for Vets Act, was signed into law late last year.
“The agreement announced today sets the stage for a new ambulatory care clinic to meet the medical needs of Nebraska veterans,” Fischer said in a statement. “Omaha is the first community in the country to utilize this innovative partnership.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., described the concept as “transformative and extraordinary” and “a real tribute to a partnership between the Omaha community and our government to finally get things moving for our veterans.”
The Omaha facility is the first of five pilot construction projects authorized under the law, according to a press release from the Omaha VA.
“This trailblazing project represents another example of the bold changes happening at VA,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said in the statement.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., described the partnership as “out-of-the-box thinking (that) reflects government reform and fiscal responsibility.”
Ashford, who Bacon defeated last fall in a close race, thanked Fischer and the rest of the Nebraska delegation, health care system administrator Don Burman and local veterans for their efforts to get the bill passed.
“I am so honored and proud that after 27 months of hard work in Congress and here at home, an agreement has been reached ... to commence work on the new medical facility,” Ashford said. “This innovative new model for a public-private partnership is a first of its kind for any department in the federal government.”