A steady stream of cars poured in off the main thoroughfare in Colorado: Colfax Street had a new tenant and they were open for business. The wait had been covered time and time again, but on July 31, the wait ended and the new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center opened their doors to treat their first patients.
From 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., a bevy of welcoming employees and volunteers walked up and down the heart of the campus with maps in hand and wide smiles, ready to guide Veterans to their first appointments. Registered nurse Anna Chmura was among the greeters, who stated “It’s fun to watch them be so excited about the new facility.”
There was no shortage of helpers and smiles. Staff were excited to serve the Veterans and the patients were ecstatic to finally be in their new facility. Several Veterans came out just to perform reconnaissance missions to ensure they could find the location of future appointments.
Army Veteran and Red Coat Ambassador James Hamm also enjoyed helping the Veteran patients find their way around the 1.2 million square-foot campus. “I’m having fun walking around helping people and being a welcoming presence,” Hamm said. “Everyone is very enthusiastic. They love it.”
Health Care System Director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder knew the new 31-acre campus might intimidate first-time visitors, so she asked employees to take an hour or two out of their workday to act as a welcoming, way-finding crew. “We want our Veterans to know and feel that this new medical center is theirs. We want them to feel at home, and a hearty face-to-face welcome by the people who are here to serve them seemed a good way to show that.”
This is the new home of health care for Colorado Veterans. Not only does it take your breath away with its physical stature, it will also set the tone for future VA hospitals. Army Vietnam Veteran Reylando Lopez was just one of the many Veterans impressed with the care received stating, “I only waited three minutes for my blood work today … I barely got sat down before the nurse came to get me.” His wife Maria said of the facility, “This is awesome; beautiful and so far, great.”
History was made that day and the tone was set for future generations of Veterans to receive world-class health care in their state-of-the-art facility. Hope to see you here soon.
Jamie Dannen is a Public Affairs Specialist at VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver. She is an Army Veteran and a graduate of Kansas State University.