A bold plan announced several years ago has now become a reality: the groundbreaking in North Chicago of the nation's first joint U.S Navy and Veterans Administration hospital. This dream was made possible by our 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk, himself a Navy vet.
According to a past AP article, "a Veterans Affairs study recommended in 1999 the closing of the inpatient facility at the North Chicago VA Medical Center. The study called for sending all needing inpatient care to the Lakeside VA Hospital, located about 35 miles away in downtown Chicago. But VA hospital proponents contended the Chicago facility would become overcrowded and would not be convenient for veterans needing care."
"We have come a long way with our vision that veteran health care should be offered where veterans live," Kirk said.
The facility, to be known as the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, was named after Capt. Jim Lovell, who is famous for the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon mission that almost resulted in disaster but for the heroic efforts of the crew to save the crippled spacecraft and return home safely. Mark Kirk says that Captain Lovell was a childhood hero of his, and part of his scheme in naming the new hospital after Lovell was that no Washington bureaucrat would ever be able to close it in the future.
The Daily Herald reported on today's ceremony and noted an attendance of about 400 people. See video from ABC-7 news here. The first phase of the $130 million project includes the parking garage, a new hospital entrance and an ambulatory care center, the Herald stated. According to the paper, when completed, the Lovell Center will serve an estimated 100,000 veterans, active-duty recruits or troops and civilian relatives annually. The facility is set to open in 2010.