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$8.7 million renovation aims to make Little Rock's VA hospital more welcoming

by Teresa Moss | October 14, 2021 at 6:57 a.m.
Treige Hussey, a volunteer services worker for the North Little Rock Veterans Hospital, holds a banner in place as Cyril Ekeh, associate medical center director for the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, looks over them after Wednesday’s news conference at John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital announced an $8.7 million project to modernize the facility's entrance with upgraded safety features, adding easier access and outdoor common spaces, officials said Wednesday during a news conference.

"This is more than just a new entrance and more than just a recognizable new aesthetic component," said Dr. Margie Scott, hospital medical director. "The project looks to contemplation, healing, powerful art and continuity to provide an arrival and departure experience that everyone can be proud of."

The project will include covered walkways; increased lighting; updated drop-off areas, including a two-lane, one-way entry; healing gardens; and a flag plaza able to be seen from Interstate 630.

Construction of the main entrance will take about 15 months and start in late November or early December. It will include the closure of the south entrance for about nine months and affect about 62 parking spots, a release said. Temporary walkways will be installed for access to entrances. All hospital services will continue during the five-phase project.

The 1984 facility is part of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, which includes 560 operating, hospital and residential beds over two campuses. It provides inpatient and outpatient services that include disease prevention, primary care, surgical procedures and extended rehabilitative care.

Salena Wright-Brown, associate director of patient care services, says the project meets the hospital's goals of offering whole health care to patients.

Limiting stress during access to the hospital can play a part in a patient's care, she said.

"If the minute you hit the parking lot it is frustrating, it is going to cause anxiety," she said. "This was crafted with the idea of making it safe and not confusing. This allows us to have one centralized entrance. It has designed parking and driving to reduce the anxiety."

Anxiety can affect a patient's health such as raising blood pressure, which could compound other medical issues, Wright-Brown said.

A contemplation and healing garden will provide a natural setting for patients and visitors to relax and reflect. The flag plaza will be dedicated to each military branch and major conflicts.

Wright-Brown said the spaces can be used for individual time or as a way to interact with others in an outdoor setting that can promote health.

The hospital has undergone other projects in the past five years, including new flooring, safety systems, and modern surgical and clinical suites.

"Today we are taking our largest strides toward creating an exceptional experience for our veterans by bringing this award-winning designed building into the modern era," Scott said.

Architectural firm JohnsonDanforth & Associates spent about two years working on the design for the entrance project. Construction will be conducted by A4 Services.

Cyril Ekeh, associate medical center director for the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Little Rock.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Cyril Ekeh, associate medical center director for the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Print Headline: VA hospital entrance to get $8.7M revamp

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