Walter Reed, Bethesda on Track for Realignment

WASHINGTON — The trans­fer of Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Center’s func­tions to Bethes­da, Md., and the con­struc­tion of a new hos­pi­tal on Fort Belvoir, Va., are expect­ed to be com­plet­ed on sched­ule, top mil­i­tary health care lead­ers said yes­ter­day.

Navy Vice Adm. John M. Mate­czun, com­man­der of Joint Task Force Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region Med­ical, told Pen­ta­gon reporters that the mis­sion to con­sol­i­date and inte­grate mil­i­tary health care func­tions in the Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region is well under way, with 9,400 med­ical per­son­nel and patients expect­ed to fin­ish mov­ing by the end of August.

Under the Base Realign­ment and Clo­sure Act of 2005, the Defense Depart­ment was required to com­bine four inpa­tient hos­pi­tals in the nation­al cap­i­tal region — Wal­ter Reed, the Nation­al Naval Med­ical Cen­ter in Bethes­da, DeWitt Army Com­mu­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Mal­colm Grow Med­ical Cen­ter at Joint Base Andrews, Md. — into two, while main­tain­ing the same patient care capac­i­ty.

This is the largest med­ical restruc­tur­ing ever under­tak­en in the mil­i­tary health sys­tem,” Mate­czun said, adding that mil­i­tary med­ical offi­cials are con­cen­trat­ing on three areas of pri­or­i­ty through­out the process.

One is qual­i­ty of care — all of the patient care that we’re pro­vid­ing,” Mate­czun said. Focus also is being placed on the wound­ed, ill and injured ser­vice mem­bers present­ly under med­ical care, he added.

The third area of pri­or­i­ty, he said, is “the capac­i­ty to take care of the wound­ed, ill and injured who are return­ing now from Iraq and Afghanistan as we do these moves.”

The new facil­i­ty at Bethes­da will include 345 med­ical-sur­gi­cal beds, 50 inten­sive care unit beds and 20 oper­at­ing rooms, while the expand­ed DeWitt hos­pi­tal will hold 120, 10 and 10, respec­tive­ly, Mate­czun said.

The two facil­i­ties should have more than enough capac­i­ty to care for all com­bat casu­al­ties, as well as fam­i­ly mem­bers and vet­er­ans, Mate­czun said, espe­cial­ly because mil­i­tary med­ical facil­i­ties nation­wide and civil­ian TRICARE med­ical plan part­ners can take addi­tion­al cas­es if the need should arise.

Of the 445 wound­ed, ill and injured sol­diers cur­rent­ly assigned to the War­rior Tran­si­tion Brigade at Wal­ter Reed, about a third will tran­si­tion to DeWitt, while the oth­er two-thirds will move to the Bethes­da facil­i­ty, said Lt. Col. Lar­ry Gun­ther, the brigade’s exec­u­tive offi­cer.

Both Bethes­da and Belvoir have added and ren­o­vat­ed bar­racks and lodg­ing facil­i­ties for these ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies.

Patients mov­ing to DeWitt are more ambu­la­to­ry and need less spe­cial­ized and inten­sive care, Mate­czun explained. They also may have post-trau­mat­ic stress, mild-to-mod­er­ate trau­mat­ic brain injuries or sub­stance-abuse prob­lems, as the Fort Belvoir hos­pi­tal is adding addi­tion­al inpa­tient behav­ioral health and sub­stance-abuse pro­grams.

Ser­vice mem­bers evac­u­at­ed from the com­bat the­ater and patients who need very spe­cial­ized care for cat­a­stroph­ic injuries, such as com­plex ortho­pe­dic trau­ma and open trau­mat­ic brain injuries, will go to the new Wal­ter Reed Nation­al Mil­i­tary Med­ical Cen­ter in Bethes­da, along with the spe­cial­ized doc­tors and oth­er med­ical pro­fes­sion­als who care for them. Com­plex surg­eries such as organ trans­plants also will be per­formed at the Bethes­da facil­i­ty.

Wal­ter Reed Army Med­ical Cen­ter, which has served the nation for 102 years, will close its doors Sept. 15, and a cer­e­mo­ny to case the col­ors of all Wal­ter Reed activ­i­ties will take place July 27.

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