VA Maryland Health Care System
History: Baltimore VA Medical Center and Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center
The ground was broken for the original Baltimore Veterans Administration Hospital in October 1949 at the corner of Loch Raven Boulevard and The Alameda. The original 295-bed facility, which was designed by local architects and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $4,852.000, was formally dedicated on October 26, 1952.
The hospital’s mission was described as an “all out battle against tuberculosis.” When the hospital opened, tuberculosis was a major health threat and the Baltimore area had more tuberculosis patients than beds to care for them. At the dedication ceremony, the Baltimore Veterans Hospital was pledged to become a “center of research as well as treatment for tuberculosis.” With such a large emphasis on research, the Loch Raven VA Medical Center (the name it came to be know by) quickly developed a working relationship with the medical schools at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
The hospital was physically laid out to suit its purpose of long-term treatment of tuberculosis patients. Instead of the normal ward layout, the hospital was equipped with 151 private rooms, with an additional 72 rooms containing two beds. Dr. Irwin J. Cohen was the first Manager of the hospital. He headed a staff of 10 medical doctors, one psychologist, one dentist, one oral hygienist and a support staff of approximately 350 nurses, dietitians and administrative and maintenance personnel.
By the sixties, the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis was so advanced that the need to hospitalize Veterans for this once dreaded disease was drastically reduced. In 1962, 95 beds at the hospital were converted to general medical and surgical beds. By 1966, the Baltimore and Indianapolis VA Medical Centers were the last two VA tuberculosis hospitals in the country. In January 1967, the Baltimore VA Medical Center was re-designated a general medical and surgical facility. A general residency was established, as was a 50 bed general surgical unit and a 33-bed thoracic surgery unit. The remaining TB beds were gradually turned over to medical care beds. At this time, the missions of both the Fort Howard and Perry Point VA Medical Centers were redefined and the surgical services for all three hospitals in Maryland were consolidated to the Baltimore VA Medical Center because of its central location.
By 1967, new surgical suites had been built and a new coronary care unit was completed. In 1976, an administrative building was constructed to house support services and an education wing was constructed in 1978. Internal modifications were also made to provide space for cardiac catheterization, nuclear medicine and Gastroenterology, and to all for the expansion of Ambulatory Care, Dental, Laboratory and Radiology Services.
In 1976, plans were approved for the construction of a new $80 million replacement facility to be built adjacent to the University of Maryland. President Carter approved the constructions plans in 1980, but the project was canceled in early 1981 due to budget deficits.
President Reagan’s budget in 1987 recommended a $110 million appropriation for construction of the new hospital, which was approved by Congress. The groundbreaking for the new facility was celebrated on June 22, 1987 and the building was officially dedicated on October 4, 1992. The Baltimore Sun referred to the new facility as the “Hyatt Regency of hospitals” in an editorial about the opening of the new Baltimore VA Medical Center that ran in the newspaper on October 2, 1992. The editorial also recognized the hospital’s patient friendly design and advanced treatment and diagnostic technology, including the world’s first filmless radiology department.
Approximately 50 patients were moved from the Loch Raven facility to the new replacement hospital on January 24, 1993, officially marking the opening of the new Baltimore VA Medical Center. At the end of the day on January 24, 1993, the Loch Raven facility closed its doors after 40 years of service to Maryland’s Veterans.
On March 7, 1994, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown and Senator Barbara A. Mikulski participated in a demolition ceremony to launch the first wrecking ball in tearing down the old Loch Raven facility in preparation for the construction of the new Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center. The ground was broken for the new facility during a ceremony held on October 17, 1994 and the official dedication ceremony was held on July 15, 1996. Approximately 40 patients were moved from the nursing home care unit at the Fort Howard VA Medical Center to the new Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center on August 4, 1996. Upon their arrival, the first patients to the new facility were treated to a gourmet dinner, which included filet mignon and sparkling cider.
On January 1, 2018, the Loch Raven VA Community Living & Rehabilitation Center and the Loch Raven VA Outpatient Clinic were officially renamed the Loch Raven VA Medical Center to reflect the comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient services available at the site.