Hospital Consolidation Going Smoothly, Commander Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2011 — As the largest-ever realign­ment of mil­i­tary health care facil­i­ties nears cul­mi­na­tion, the com­man­der of the task force exe­cut­ing the effort is pleased with how it has gone.

“The process has gone extra­or­di­nar­i­ly smooth­ly,” Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) John M. Mate­czun said yes­ter­day dur­ing an inter­view with the Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel and Amer­i­can Forces Press Service. 

Joint Task Force Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region Med­ical was cre­at­ed in 2007 to over­see a base realign­ment and clo­sure law man­date to close Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter here and Mal­colm Grow Med­ical Cen­ter at Joint Base Andrews in Mary­land, and to con­sol­i­date care at the Nation­al Naval Med­ical Cen­ter in Bethes­da, Md., and a new Fort Belvoir Com­mu­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal in Virginia. 

The con­sol­i­dat­ed facil­i­ty in Bethes­da will be called the Wal­ter Reed Nation­al Mil­i­tary Med­ical Cen­ter. Patient con­sol­i­da­tion has occurred through­out most of August, and will con­clude in the com­ing days with the trans­port of Wal­ter Reed’s remain­ing inpa­tients � about 50 peo­ple � to Bethes­da, Mate­czun said, adding that he does not antic­i­pate prob­lems with the sev­en-mile ambu­lance transports. 

The nation­al cap­i­tal region has “more expe­ri­ence than any­where else in the coun­try,” he not­ed, receiv­ing patients at least three times per week on flights from Land­stuhl Region­al Med­ical Cen­ter in Germany. 

The hos­pi­tals will sequence the depar­ture and arrival of patients, the admi­ral said, so as not to over­whelm any one ward. Each patient will trav­el in an ambu­lance with his or her team of care providers, as well as fam­i­ly mem­bers if there is room, he said. 

While the move has gone smooth­ly, Mate­czun said, it comes at a crit­i­cal time for patients. The task force issued let­ters about the realign­ment ear­ly this year and set up a hot­line for peo­ple to ask ques­tions dur­ing the transition. 

“This is a dis­rup­tive time in their lives, and I’m very sor­ry we had to bring more dis­rup­tion,” the admi­ral said. “But we would­n’t do it if we did­n’t think it will be bet­ter for them.” 

Any reser­va­tions patients or their fam­i­lies have had about the move gen­er­al­ly dis­solve as they walk into the new facil­i­ties, Mate­czun said. “It’s been very grat­i­fy­ing for us to watch them and their reac­tions as they move in,” he said. 

The new hos­pi­tals and clin­ics rep­re­sent the covenant the ser­vices have with wound­ed war­riors to pro­vide them with the best pos­si­ble care, the admi­ral said. “There is a new par­a­digm for not just pro­vid­ing acute care, but for ther­a­peu­tic care, as well,” he said. 

The new facil­i­ties go beyond fed­er­al require­ments for dis­abil­i­ty stan­dards, pro­vid­ing a spe­cial­ized envi­ron­ment for wound­ed war­riors and their fam­i­lies, Mate­czun said. “We like to say they are ‘wound­ed war­rior com­pli­ant,’ ” he said. 

The facil­i­ties are wheel­chair- and pros­thet­ic-ready, the admi­ral said, and inpa­tient suites are designed so wound­ed war­riors may live with fam­i­ly mem­bers and gain inde­pen­dence by doing dai­ly tasks such as cook­ing and laun­dry. “It’s a new mod­el for the mil­i­tary,” he said. 

The Fort Belvoir hos­pi­tal, Mate­czun said, is lead­ing the nation in what is known as “evi­dence-based designs,” or “smart rooms,” that give patients a mon­i­tor to see when some­one enters their room, along with the person’s name and title, as well as more con­trol of tem­per­a­ture, light­ing and tele­vi­sion. Also, providers will be able to access a patient’s elec­tron­ic health record in their room in coor­di­na­tion with the patient, he said. 

“We need to make sure that patient care is our No. 1 pri­or­i­ty,” he said, “and we also need to take care of the staff and make sure that they stay.” 

The task force has done just that, Mate­czun said, because the realign­ment law guar­an­teed place­ment for Wal­ter Reed’s 2,200 employ­ees at either Bethes­da or Fort Belvoir. “They stuck with us, and we are very grate­ful we are able to keep them all,” he said. 

In plan­ning the moves, Mate­czun said, the task force also cre­at­ed effi­cien­cies through inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, buy­ing the same equip­ment for the facil­i­ties and allow­ing for the same main­te­nance contracts. 

“It’s more than world-class care,” he said. “It’s world-class ser­vice. Our end goal is to try to reach an inte­grat­ed sys­tem of patient care when the patient needs it, and where they need it.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

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