Walter Reed Continues Quality Care, Concern for Recovering Wounded
February 22, 2007
The leadership and staff of Walter Reed Army Medical Center are working with outpatient Soldiers to continue year-long efforts to address concerns about medical services and their housing, especially in light of recent press reports about understandable frustrations with care among some Soldiers and their families.
Walter Reed provides highly personalized health care and has treated since 2002 more than 6,000 wounded Soldiers from war operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these Soldiers started as inpatients - receiving life-saving medical treatments, needed surgeries and physical therapy - then progressed to outpatient status living near the hospital. Treating these wounded warriors is a team of 4,200 medical professional who dedicate their lives and hearts to helping our Soldiers.
As wounded Soldiers heal and grow stronger, they go from the hospital to a number of buildings on or near the Walter Reed campus. On average, more than 200 family members also join them to help with recovery, emotional support, a strong hand and a warm hug to carry them through difficult days.
The hospital is there to care for Soldiers and help them transition back into their lives. The Walter Reed staff works daily to improve care for these wounded warriors and their families. Patients and family members also may address concerns with their chain of command; platoon sergeants; case workers; patient advocates; suggestion boxes; surveys; staff open door policies.
The hospital is looking at itself carefully and continues to make systemic improvements for this delicate patient transition and for follow-on outpatient care. These improvements include: enhanced supervision and accountability for patients, better communications focused on the needs of patients and their families, and improvements in processing their cases through both the treatment phase and the Patient Disability Evaluation System to determine their long-term needs.
Soldiers tell hospital staff in some cases the outpatient transition is too long, according to Walter Reed reports. Others say they feel the level of attention and personal care diminishes when they leave the hospital - that they are rushed toward discharge from the military. The hospital holds on to Soldier patients as long as possible to care for their needs completely.
From Walter Reed internal reviews of these perceptions, the hospital regularly modifies policies and procedures to address concerns. The hospital is looking at four key areas: accountability and tracking of out-patient Soldiers, including reducing the ratio of patients per staff member to offer more personal care; careful monitoring of the outpatient living areas, both on and off the hospital's campus; establishing a more comprehensive "one-stop shop" to ease handling paperwork by Soldiers and their families; and communicating clear information to Soldiers and their families on a regular basis.
Senior Army leaders also are aware of these goals and the challenges the hospital addressed over the past five years. The population of outpatients at Walter Reed increased from pre-war levels of 100-120 outpatients to a peak of more than 874 Soldiers in the summer of 2005. Prior to January 2006, Walter Reed only had a single medical-hold company to provide command and control, and accountability of all those Soldiers. Since January 2006, the hospital created new organizational structures to decrease the Soldier to platoon sergeant and case manager ratio from 1 staff member to 125 Soldiers to approximately 1 to 25 or 30 Soldiers.
This week the Army increased attacks on maintenance problems at the housing sites profiled by the press, including Building 18. Walter Reed Army Medical Center started using Building18 to house Soldier patients in October 2005. The building's capacity is 108 Soldiers and there are currently about 80 Soldiers residing there now. Soldiers are placed there toward the end of their care and when they no longer have physical constraints that require them to be closer to the hospital and in nearby housing like the Mologne House.
Over the next few weeks, the hospital staff will review about 30 outstanding work orders and prioritize work to ensure a high level of attention to the concerns of our Soldiers. The hospital already completed over 200 maintenance projects since February 2006.
Walter Reed is a monument to a long tradition of world-class patient care, medical research and educational development, officials say. The Defense Department and Congress continue to provide the Army will the resources needed to care for Soldiers and their families. The Army also is grateful to the phenomenally generous support of the American public.
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