Sunday, March 18, 2007

Walter Reed is falling down...

I'm glad to see the furor over the dismal conditions at Walter Reed continue to make the news cycle and as I had hoped, the blowback from the original WaPo piece generated closer scrutiny of the entire VA system. However, I'm sorry to see the problems at Walter Reed go much deeper than just Building 18. The latest whistleblower comes forward and reveals the entire complex is falling apart.

The photos and reports are shocking. Burst pipes leaving water in the vicinity of high voltage power lines. Rotting support beams, hazardous waste stored between occupied floors. In short, Walter Reed, the crown piece of our VA system military's health care systems, is a mess. One wonders what effect this has on troop morale. I expect it's much more demoralizing than hearing their fellow Americans want to bring them home.

The top military brass have taken the fall for this and certainly they do bear great responsibility for allowing it to continue without protest but the roots of the decline can surely be traced to six years of GOP spending priorities that funded R&D for futuristic weaponry that isn't even really needed, at the expense of appropriate equipment for the soldiers and that gave massive tax cuts to corporations and obscenely wealthy individuals while slashing funding for the VA at a time the system is being overloaded with severely wounded veterans.

Of all the failures of the occupation, the grossly negligent disregard for the welfare of those troops who sacrificed their limbs and their sanity for this ill-fated mission, is the most criminal.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walter Reed is not the crown piece of the VA since the Department of Defense controls Walter Reed and not the Department of Veterans Affairs. Virtually every article on Walter Reed Army Medical Center has made this clear.

The building in the photographs is Buildng 40 and has been empty for several years. It has the home of the Walter Reed Army Insitute of Research (WRAIR) before WRAIR moved to Forest Glen Maryalnd.

Before BRAC, the government planned on leasing the building to a private company who would remodel the building and lease it make to the Army. The BRAC Commission killed that plan.

The building is not being maintained because it makes no sense to maintain a building that no one in the Army plans on using.

1:37:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Good point anon. Thanks for pointing that I misspoke. I should have said our military health care systems.

As for your other point, clearly I don't have your inside knowledge but the article I linked to indicated the building is occupied at least partially. But even if it is empty, it's still on the Walter Reed campus and I don't see how letting it fall into such disrepair that it presents a danger to the public makes any sense. Furthermore, the whistleblower indicated that virtually ALL the buildings on campus are in some state of deterioation. I think that's a concern.

3:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the buildings are in bad shape at Walter Reed. That is why the BRAC commission decided to close the Georgia Avenue Campus. It is impossible to build a new building while trying to comply with all of the regulations that DC puts on contruction.

The article talked about a safety concern of IAP workers entering the building to handle a leak. My guess is that a safety plan was not prepared for entry into a close building. I found the article odd because the power has been turned off.

The hazardous materials (not hazardous waste) are stored "between" floors in the main hospital (Building 2, Heaton Pavillion) because that building was built with interstial floors. The maintaince people store items there because they are so short of space. That is another reasons why they want to close the place.

The effort to keep WRAMC open is due to a push by Eleanor Holmes Norton to keep the mainly black civilian workforce employed since National Naval Medical Center has a much smaller percentage of its workforce that is black.

7:20:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Impossible to build in DC? Are you telling me there's no construction going on in the whole city? And how is it you know so much about the facility and their safety plans? Assuming what you say is true, and the buildings are closed, why isn't there a safety plan for entry into closed buildings already in place? It seems to me they might need one someday. And if they need storage space so badly, why not use one of the closed buildings?

I also take it from the tone of your comment you're for the closing of the place so let me ask you where the patients are going to go when the whole system is already overloaded with war wounded?

8:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is impossible to build a new hospital that would meet the needs of the military within the constraints impose by existing environmental, historic preservation, planning, and zoning laws.

An example would be that the parking at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is inadequate but the district will not let the Army expand parking. There is also a height limit for the neighborhood that restrict the size of any new facility.

Safety plans for entry as job specific. Each time something is planned, a safety officer should review the plan and develop a safety restrictions and requirements for the plan. In reading the original article is sounds like the disgruntled employee is upset (either rightly or wrongly) about the safety practices of IAP.

The BRAC plan for Walter Reed was to expand the facilities at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and build a much larger Dewitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir.

Another reasons for the BRAC is that the majority of the patient base for Walter Reed actually lives in northern virginia. That requires several hours of travel to do things like have a consult or to have an MRI. The plan was to build a much bigger hospital in Northern Virginia to handle primary care and have the new "Walter Reed National Military Medical Center" in Bethesda serve as the tertiary care center since it is a much better neighborhood and is on a Metroroute.

7:15:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Thanks for the comments anon. It's brought an interesting perspective to the story.

7:26:00 AM  

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