Army Hospital Upgrades Healthcare Services for U.S. Service Members
February 21, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Army News Service, Feb. 21, 2007) - Speaking to a group of journalists at the Pentagon recently, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center official said hospital personnel continue to make strides in providing care to service members and bettering themselves as administers of healthcare.
"We've made and continue to make many systemic improvements during outpatient care," said Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center
These improvements, Weightman said, include enhanced supervision and accountability, enhanced information flow for patients and family members, and improvements in processing their cases through treatment phases and the Patient Disability Evaluation System. "We have been making changes since 2005," he said.
Known for a long tradition of world-class patient care, medical research and educational development, Walter Reed professionals treated approximately 6,052 casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom since 2002, and about 25 percent of the Soldiers cared for at Walter Reed return to duty, Weightman said.
Once patients recover to a point of hospital discharge, they join the outpatient ranks. There are two categories of patients in the outpatient ranks: medical hold, who are active duty Soldiers, and medical holdovers, who are reserve Soldiers. "It is during this transition and follow-on phase that we have noted improvements in accountability need to be made, Weightman said.
The suggestions and concerns of Soldiers who are patients at Walter Reed are accepted through various avenues, such as the hospital's chain of command, patient advocates, town hall meetings and suggestion boxes.
In some cases, Soldiers voiced concerns regarding the lengthiness of outpatient transition and follow-on outpatient care phase at Walter Reed.
"We will continually strive to make process improvements to enhance care for patients and their family members," said Weightman. "In essence, we will not allow any service member to be treated unfairly nor sacrifice the quality of care they deserve."
Other Soldiers voiced opinions saying the level of attention and physical care diminishes when they are not longer inpatients - that they are rushed through the system toward a discharge and off the roster, according to Weightman.
The average length of stay is approximately 270 days for active duty Soldiers and approximately 243 days for reserve component Soldiers,
Another available resource to Soldiers at Walter Reed is the Medical Family Assistance Center. The MEDFAC serves as a call center for Soldiers and their families, and provides these families with supply and service assistance such as clothes, shoes and food.
Commanders and clinical leaders at Walter Reed have an open-door policy for issues and concerns of patients, family members, staff members and reporters, Weightman said.
"We embrace any opportunity to better serve our patients and family members during extremely difficult and private times in their lives," Weightman said. "I can assure you that the vast majority of our patients and family members are thrilled with the care and support that they receive and so richly deserve."