Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Delayed Healing for Walter Reed


Military medicine in the DC metro area is to undergo a severe reorganization in the next three years as the District’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) closes its’ doors to merge with Bethesda’s National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), delaying redevelopment of the site. But the project, which is to see the sprawling Bethesda site re-titled the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), hit a speed bump this week as the proposed start date for the $641.1 million undertaking was called into question before Congress.

The slow down came early in the week as Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania (D) inserted language into Congress’ defense-spending bill that would prevent the current Walter Reed facility from closing down at the intended date in 2011. As reported by The Hill, it is Murtha’s intention to keep the WRAMC open as long as possible, in order to ensure that the hospital’s “world–class medical facilities” for military personnel will not be compromised. (Although that view seems to conflict with WRAMC’s image following The Washington’s Post’s 2007 series of scathing exposes about patient conditions at the compound.) Murtha’s efforts could delay the project an additional 18 months and add an estimated $150 million to the project’s price tag.

Currently, the capabilities of both the WRAMC and the NNMC are set for a dramatic expansion once construction is completed. The overhaul needed to transform the 243-acre Bethesda site into the WRNMMC breaks down like so:
  • A 261,000 square foot renovation of the current NNMC facilities
  • The construction of a new 6-story, 533,000 square foot, 345-bed medical center
  • A 157,000 square foot, 4-story addition to an existing building that adjoins the Building One hospital
  • The construction of a new 80,000 square foot, 2-story facility to house the National Intrepid Center of Excellence
  • The construction of new pathways, utility tunnels, barracks, a gym, parking lots and a garage
  • The relocation of key WRAMC service centers, such as those for amputee therapy and lung and breast cancer
The integration the nation’s two most prominent military hospital and research facilities was mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, which required the relocation of all WRAMC services by September 15, 2011. An Office of Integration was established soon afterwards by the Navy in order to facilitate the transition in a timely and efficient manner to the Bethesda location 6 miles away – an effort that is already well beyond the initial planning phase. Jurisdiction over funding for the project fell to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which, as of March 2008, had already granted a joint contract to firms Clark Construction and Balfour Beatty Construction. A groundbreaking ceremony held this past July 3rd was overseen by President George W. Bush.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

John Murtha is a Democrat, not a Reppublican.

Ken on Sep 10, 2008, 10:57:00 PM said...

And a partisan one at that. Darn it, we knew that, too. Thanks for correcting the flub. We won't return the favor by correcting your spelling.

laloca said...

fwiw, the problems at wramc have more to do with housing than with the medical portion of the facility - although there are problems, as one would expect, with a hospital nearing the end of its functional life.

whether it moves to bethesda or stays on georgia, a new medical center is sorely needed.

 

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