Walter Reed Hospital – substandard conditions

Walter ReedRats? Mice? Roaches?  What the Hell?  Walter Reed Hospital is supposed to be our flag ship military hospital. 

Of course, Keith Olbermann is on top of this story.  The story was broken in the Washington Post.  Dana Priest, one of the authors of the article, is a fabulous reporter.  For all of the media bashing that is going on, no one should bash her work. 


From WaPo

The White House and congressional leaders called yesterday for swift investigation and repair of the problems plaguing outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as veterans groups and members of Congress in both parties expressed outrage over substandard housing and the slow, dysfunctional bureaucracy there.

Top Army officials yesterday visited Building 18, the decrepit former hotel housing more than 80 recovering soldiers, outside the gates of the medical center. Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody toured the building and spoke to soldiers as workers in protective masks stripped mold from the walls and tore up soiled carpets.

At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow said that he spoke with President Bush yesterday about Walter Reed and that the president told him: “Find out what the problem is and fix it.”

Snow said Bush “first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in The Washington Post. He is deeply concerned and wants any problems identified and fixed.” The spokesman said he did not know why the president, who has visited the facility many times in the past five years, had not heard about these problems before.

Walter Reed’s commander, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, said in an interview that the Army leadership had assured him that all the staff increases he had requested would be met. “This is not an issue,” he said. “This is their number one priority.”

He said the Army has agreed to fund what he called a “surge plan” that has been designed for the likelihood that the 21,500-person troop increase underway in Iraq will result in more casualties.

Weightman said case managers have been ordered to call each of the 700 outpatients to ask about problems they may be encountering. He has also put half a dozen senior enlisted officers from the hospital in charge of the outpatients’ companies normally in the hands of lower-level platoon sergeants. Also, a medic will be stationed 24 hours a day at the Mologne House, the largest residence on the 113-acre post, to help soldiers with medical or psychological problems.

Harvey said he was surprised and disappointed by the conditions and the bureaucratic delays. “In the warrior ethos, the last line says you should never leave a fallen comrade, and from that facility point of view we didn’t live up to it . . . and it looks to me we may have not lived up to it from a process side,” he said, adding that conditions at the building are “inexcusable.”

“It’s a failure . . . in the garrison leadership . . . that should have never happened, and we are quickly going to rectify that situation,” he said.

“We had some NCOs [noncommissioned officers] who weren’t doing their job, period,” Harvey said. He said he and Cody will report regularly to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on a plan to fix the conditions.

The Post series documented tattered conditions at Building 18, including mold, rot, mice and cockroaches, but also a larger bureaucratic indifference that has impeded some soldiers’ recovery.

At Building 18 yesterday, platoon sergeants with clipboards went from room to room inspecting for mold, leaks and other problems. A broken elevator was repaired, and snow and ice were cleared from the sidewalks.

The secretaries of the Army and Navy announced that they had begun a broader review of Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center and that an independent review group will be formed to investigate outpatient care and administrative processes. Walter Reed is set to close in 2011, and the naval facility in Bethesda will be expanded to handle the additional wounded.

Walter Reed’s fixes are unlikely to immediately quiet the criticism from members of Congress, who received a flood of calls from the public and veterans groups asking how the problems could have been unknown to officials — some of whom regularly visit Walter Reed.

“We need to bring the Army people in and say, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” said Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked the House Armed Services Committee to investigate outpatient care at Walter Reed. “The treatment reported in The Post of our troops and our veterans is disgraceful,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said.

Several senators, including presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former presidential candidate John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), announced they are co-sponsoring legislation to simplify the paperwork process for recovering soldiers and increase case managers and psychological counselors. The bill would also require the Army to report more regularly to Congress and the inspector general about the living conditions of injured soldiers.

Jeff Miller (Fla.), the ranking Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health, said: “The neglect being experienced by some wounded service members is outrageous. The Defense Department is never shy about asking for supplemental funds for operations and equipment; I cannot imagine why housing for recuperating wounded would not be a similarly high priority.”

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), former chairman of what was then known as the House Government Reform Committee, urged the committee to hold a hearing at Walter Reed to give members an “invaluable firsthand look” at how the Army is processing the wounded. “Improvements to date have been episodic, and in some case, short-lived,” Davis said in a statement.

0 Responses

  1. Pingback: University Update
  2. How much evidence is necessary before more people conclude that the “support the troops” mantra is a purposeful deception? These young people are cannon fodder for corporate profits. They have been deceived into fighting a war and others have been deceived into thinking that leaders of the political right are actually sincere in their assertions about war and the troops. People who tout so-called Christian values while beating the drums of war either can’t discern good from evil or are actively being deceptive.

    War is evil, pure and simple. The only humane way to “support the troops” is by ending all wars and seeking true and just solutions to human needs.

    Here is Wisdom !!

  3. On the flip side. I saw on the news that there is a brand new recovery hospital built from donations. It is suppose to be a state of the art facility. It was built with donations!!! Not government money. Just proves that everyday americans support the soldiers. It is a shame that this has not been looked into before. I know Walter Reed has seen its share the last 3 years. Maybe with the closing in a few years they thought they would ride it out. But this just proves where their administrations head is at which is not supporting the true heros but his war game..

  4. For those that want to see, the evidence is there for them to see. If those who have their heads in the sand, no amount of evidence will convince them.

    thanks for your comments.

  5. Walter Reed is only the tip of the Iceberg. The same treatment is going on at military bases around the nation. The worst being Fort Hood, TX. Soldiers are not being treated for all of the problems they had upon their return, but instead were being rushed out the system.

  6. How amazing. They are only just bringing to light problems at one VA facility. Someone needs to investigate the level of care that many disabled vets have been receiving for years in the system. While I certainly sympathize with the newly injured what about the aging disabled vets from the Vietnam era that have to kick and fight with the VA system for basic care. Every new injured soldier reduces the benefits that were available to previously injured soldiers.

  7. This is nothing new. I could not believe how I was treated after Nam. My dad said the same thing about the treatment after WWII and Korea
    Now my youngest son leaves for Irag March 1

    Take Care

  8. The President and top Army officials, NCO’s and otherwise, should spend their weekend at Walter Reed until the problem is fixed to show their support for our wounded troops and explained to family members that everything possible is being done.

    Can one picture what it is like at the local VA hospitals in our towns & cities once they leave the top-notched care of Walter Reed?

    We spend billions on this war but can’t even fix our flag ship miltary hosptial that bring in the seriously wounded from oversea air bases like those in Germany? What a shame!

  9. George –

    You’re 100% correct. The Bush administration is not really about details. They are about business. They aren’t really about people. They are about business. Look at the 2007-2008 Budget. It is all about business and tax cuts. Not much can be found to help the average Joe.

    Thanks for your comments.

  10. Paula –

    Thanks for your comments.

    It is my opinion that Vets get great care at Walter Reed. The problem isn’t the hospital itself. The problem is one of the “stepdown” facilities. Here’s the deal, wounded soldier comes in. They get cared for at Walter Reed. When they are better and too well to stay in the hospital but still need physical therapy or some other specialty care, the soldiers are moved to a near by building. There are several near by building. Some are okay. Some are not. The one mentioned in the above Washington Post article wasn’t one of the “good” buildings.

    This is a simple matter if you listen to the troops. The Bush Administation simply doesn’t listen.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  11. I try to give credit when its due.The VA care system is a God send to old vets like myself, on low income.We have a good VA hospital here in Cleveland.The outpatient clinics are overcrowded, but are managed fairly well.The doctors are top quality.

  12. I have worked in a VA. I got some of my training in a VA (I’m a trauma surgeon). There is no doubt that VA provide a GREAT service. There are GREAT MD’s, nurses, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, social workers and other hospital personnel in VA’s throughout the country.

    My beef is that we need to continue to improve them and have them provide better service especially in a time of war.

  13. This problem trancends partisan politics.Both Parties are guilty of neglect.For example a 15% disability for a lost limb??What a national disgrace.That is a 100% disability in my humble opinion.Simetimes war is necessary evil to stop evil,but this is an outrage.Also these brave men and women have ot adhere to strict militaty protocol,formation for example.These people are sick and injured for Gods sakes.Where is the comon sense.The very least of the problem should be the physical condition of these hospitals,anyone in the chain of command who neglected to fix the problems should be fired.

  14. Fort Dix medical hold is a disgrace. Soldiers are left stagnant waiting for 1 of the 2 doctors to treat over 100 injured or sick soldiers. I personally have been in med hold for over 1 year and I can honestly say that we are treated with less dignity and respect then Iraqi detainees. We are threatened daily, forced to work regardless of physical profiles, forced to participate in company physical training 3 days a week from 0600 to 0700 regardless of injury, forced to attend mandatory meet and greet’s for the company so the leadership appears to be doing everything they can for the soldiers. Every lower enlisted soldier received a written negative counseling statement for violation of drugs / alcohol, regardless if they actually had. Soldiers are kept at Ft Dix, waiting for an undermanned staff to get to their care. Ft Dix medical hold is an embarrasment to the veterans, the military and America.

  15. I am a SSgt in the USMC and I have been recently treated as an outpatient at Walter Reed Hospital. Having also dealt with prominent Chicago civilian hospitals, I find that the level of doctor, care, and genuine at WRMC is simply incredible, and couldn’t believe how much care and attention I received from the staff. Nor did I have to deal with mountains of paperwork, especially in comparison to the civilian hospital. Yes, the facilities might not be as up-to-date, but I have never been in a room with rats, roaches, or mold. Please do not let this Post article taint your view on the quality of doctor care that we servicemen and women are receiving at WRMC.

  16. C-Co, FTDIX, NJ –
    Thanks for your comments. As I mentioned earlier, I have worked as a surgeon in a VA. WE have some of the best medical personnel in the world caring for our vets in VA hospitals. Unfortunately, the VA has more than a few issues. They have always had issues. I’m hopeful that this national spotlight will help improve the paperwork, the facilities and the wait times at all VA’s.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  17. When my WWII dad was in his final years he often complained about the care the vets received in “holding” facilities, that was over 60 years ago.
    Dad wondered why soldiers in the US weren’t treated with state of the art technology like German soldiers were treated. “And to think”, he’d say, “we won the war!”
    This battle for respect and adequate treatment will never end without involvement from everyone, not just the Washington Post!

  18. Kitty –

    You are 100% correct. Everyone needs to get involved but then again, I think that’s true about politics in general.

    Thanks for your comments.

  19. STOP! Stop pointign blame. This problem goes way back. Sorry folks but my father was taken care of in A Vets Hosptial many years ago. It wasn’t great then. You see my father has been dead since 1976. This is NOT a new problem. Many people have come in gone in all offices of the US governemnt that have not known about the problem. That is why you have a check and balance system. You need normal every day people checking on these things because they won’t put up with the crap like elected officials do. You do NOT take care of the common person. As long as the senate and congress make their big bucks they could care less about the little person. Now you have gotten caught. Deal with it and take responsiblity for your inept lack of care and concern for anyone but yourselves.

    Firing someone to wash over the issues is NOT what people want the want the problem FIXED. No more meetings about this and that and how to just FIX IT.

  20. Jan, thanks for your comments.

    First, let me say that I agree the problems at the VA (Military Hospitals in general) go way back. That is true.

    Secondly, I’m guessing that you are new ot my blog. I DO take care the common person. As a trauma surgeon, yep, that’s what I do for a living, I take care of the “common” person. I have trained in the VA system (Dallas VA and Shreveport VA). I have taught in the VA system (Shreveport).

    Thirdly, in business when the widgets are not performing up to specs then the person in charge of the widget line gets fired. Why? Because that was his/her job. The guys in charge of the VA knew about the problem but chose to put fixing the problem low on the totum pole. That was their decision. They decided the problem wasn’t important enough for them to put for fixing. Therefore, it is complete appropriate for them to get fired when there is a public outcry.

    Finally, in order to fix something that is this complex in a large organization you have to motivate some people. You have to convinence the organization that you are serious. Those people who are not motivated should be fired. Those people who are motivated and getting the job done should be promoted.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  21. The Defense Department is never shy about asking for supplemental funds for operations and equipment, I cannot imagine why housing for recuperating wounded would not be a similarly high priority.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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