Jul 20, 2011 5 Comments ›› Angelia
Just over a century after taking in its first patients, Walter Reed Army Medical Center will close its doors at the end of August and move patients, staff and health care operations to new and expanded facilities at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and DeWitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va.
The moves into what will become the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital are the result of a 2005 Base Realignment Closure Commission recommendation to consolidate several medical facilities in the National Capital Region.
“This is the largest medical restructuring ever undertaken in the military health care system,” said Vice Adm. John M. Mateczun, the top commander of D.C.-area medical facilities, during a Pentagon meeting with reporters. “We have 9,400 people that are involved in the moves in those three hospitals.”
The consolidation is estimated to cost $2.6 billion, he said.
When the consolidations are over, he said, there will be the same numbers of beds overall as before. The new Walter Reed will have 345 beds in all, including 50 intensive care beds and 20 operating rooms. The community hospital at Belvoir will have 120 beds, including 10 each for ICU and surgery.
The moves are taking place in what is typically the busiest time of year for receiving wounded and sick patients from Iraq and Afghanistan, Mateczun said.
“At this time of year we’re generally receiving back about 20 inpatients evacuating from Iraq and Afghanistan a week,” he said.
Regardless, Mateczun expects a smooth transition of care.
The hospitals have already run one drill that included moving mock-patients with different kinds of injuries and illnesses by ambulance to the Bethesda and Belvoir hospitals. The one area they found needed improvement was the clean-up and turnaround time on ambulances, Walter Reed Health Care System commander Col. Norvell V. Coots said.
When the actual move does occur, he said, some patients will be able to have a family member in the ambulance with them for the ride.
In addition to inpatient care, Walter Reed has about 300,000 men and women eligible for care through Tricare in the National Capital Region, officials said. These people already have received letters asking them which of the new hospitals they prefer to receive their care.
Coots said that Walter Reed will hold a formal closing ceremony in July.
In addition to a number of distinguished guests and VIPs, he said current and former staff and patients are expected to attend the ceremony.
One will be a woman who has been getting her medical care at Walter Reed since 1936, he said.