Saturday, September 12, 2009

The New Walter Reed: Less Than 'World Class'?

The New Walter Reed: Less Than 'World Class'?
By Stephen Schimpff

We Americans owe our servicemen and women, especially our wounded warriors, the very best in medical care. With the construction of a “new Walter Reed” in Bethesda, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that they get such world-class care. But for that to happen, much more needs to be done.

Care for military personnel in the Washington area has long been provided by Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. But in 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) mandated consolidation into a new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the grounds of the naval hospital. This facility will provide primary and more complex care to all military personnel who live in the northern half of the capital area, as well as tertiary care — high-level specialty care — to those from the entire region, including complete care for wounded service members.

About a year ago, following reports that the new facility was not on track to meet a stated requirement of “world class,” Congress passed legislation calling for a review by a subcommittee of the Defense Health Board. I was nominated to join this 15-member group by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).

There is much to commend in the work that has been done so far. For example, the view of the facility from Wisconsin Avenue will be very pleasing, with the iconic 1930s tower flanked by a new outpatient building and a revamped, extended inpatient building — and these will provide not only good but excellent care. But a master facility plan has never been done for the campus, which currently serves multiple functions and includes many older buildings that, over time, should be replaced in an orderly manner. During our review, we were told that such a plan was not within the scope of the BRAC budget.

Similarly, no analysis has been performed to determine future needs based on local demographic changes (the number of retired military personnel in the area is increasing), changing types of wounds (such as from improvised explosive devices) or advances in the delivery of medical care. Instead, the consolidation was planned using a static approach, whereby the functions performed at Walter Reed were simply shifted to the future facilities. Again, the rationale we were given for this was that the BRAC law did not allow for any other approach.
read more here
The New Walter Reed

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