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Ribbon cutting marks next step for Aurora VA Hospital

AURORA, Colo. -- After years of delays, and one expensive mistake after another, the new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center is one step closer to opening.

Hundreds gathered outside the main entrance Saturday morning for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The hospital won't actually open for a few more days, but the ceremony gave many a chance to reflect on the long road to get here.

"It's been very frustrating," said Air Force Veteran John Mason. "At least now we're finally getting what we were promised."

The hospital is more than $1 billion over budget and five years behind schedule. The center has fewer exam rooms, fewer surgical rooms, and no PTSD unit.

Congress was forced to get involved after costs skyrocketed, pushing back the completion date.

"It's not a good design," said Congressman Mike Coffman. "It has been a nightmare."

Coffman says nobody from the VA has been held accountable. When pressed for answers at Saturday's ceremony, Acting Secretary Peter O'Rourke wanted nothing to do with the topic.

“There’s a past, but today, we’re going to focus on the future, and what we’re going to be able to do moving forward.”

The ceremony did give the public its first look inside the nearly-complete hospital.

It includes a state-of-the-art spinal surgery clinic, and private rooms for veterans.

"It should work out well for me and a lot of other veterans too," said John Mason. "This is a wonderful day, it's almost like a birthday."

Patients will begin arriving at the hospital within the next week. The old VA hospital is scheduled to remain open for the next 3 to 5 years.

There remains no timeline for an addition of a PTSD ward.

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