$300 Million Medical Facility Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Two weeks before it’s supposed to open, new facility at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is nowhere near complete

Santa Clara County is on the verge of firing one of the world’s biggest construction companies from a major hospital project.

The idea was to construct a new building at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, the county’s main hospital complex, but two weeks before it's supposed to open, it’s nowhere near finished – despite more than $300 million allocated for the project.

Santa Clara County announced plans to build a new facility to add 168 much-needed hospital beds at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center about five years ago. The county hired Turner Construction, the same company that built the 49ers Levi’s Stadium.

NBC Bay Area investigated the progress of the new building and found just a shell of a structure. After all these years, it is nowhere close to being ready, and, yet, it is scheduled to be open in about two weeks.

Not only is there not one bed or room ready for patients, but according to documents obtained from a public records request, the delays are costing the county millions of dollars in lost revenue.

A walk through the Santa Clara County hospital bed building shows a project in almost total disarray. The Turner Construction company was picked to build it, but top county leaders acknowledge millions of dollars have been wasted, and the county is losing at least $100,000 a day in revenue.

Work records show the original project contract was about $291 million. Turner Construction requested an additional $66 million and then another $9 million.

The documents also show the county agreed to extend the completion deadline by more than a year and agreed to other change orders as well. Two weeks before the new building is supposed to open: there’s unfinished rooms and no beds.

“I’m very disappointed that the progress is not where it should be for the delivery of this bed building,” said Paul E. Lorenz, Valley Medical Center CEO.

County officials say the Sept. 19 opening will be “impossible” to meet and that it could take two or three years to make up time and solve problems, including a rain-damaged roof.

Lorenz said they’ll have to replace building’s roof before it ever opens.

“Many of the things they did were just inexcusable,” said Jeffrey Smith, Santa Clara County CEO. “For example, building an entire floor to specs that were not approved by the state.”

Smith said officials tolerated the earlier delays because of Turner Construction’s reputation for completing big projects. In fact, Turner was working on Levi’s Stadium at the same time. Now, Smith says he believes Turner Construction became preoccupied with Levi’s at the expense of the hospital project.

“Well, we noticed when Levi’s Stadium offered them an incentive bonus to finish quickly,” Smith said. “Suddenly, a lot of our subcontractors left, so they redirected them to the Levi’s Stadium.”

The construction company adamantly denies that the Levi’s Stadium project had an influence on the hospital project.

But officials say they agreed to talk to NBC Bay Area because the delays prevent Valley Medical Center from delivering much-needed, promised services. For example, VMC’s entire physical rehabilitation unit was supposed to be moved into the new building. Instead, the county says it has had to turn away patients, daily, because of the current facility’s limited capacity.

The new building was also supposed to house an expansion of VMC’s burn unit and maternity department.

A spokesman for Turner Construction, Larry Kamer, said it’s “wrong” to blame the construction for all the delays. He said the county accepted responsibility for many of the problems.

But, county executive Smith is not swayed and said the county has already put Turner Construction on notice: come up with a better explanation in seven days, or lose the project.

“We can’t afford to have a company who’s playing games in charge of the schedule,” Smith said.

The two sides are scheduled to meet Monday. The county says it’s Turner’s last chance. Turner says it sees the meeting as a chance to find a way to collaborate.

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