FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, March 13, 2007) - The investigation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. has broadened into an investigation of the military health care system, particularly where it pertains to the quality of wounded warriors' outpatient care.
Acting swiftly to find solutions to a bureaucratic system Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker has likened to "running in hip boots in a swamp," Army leaders have dispatched inspector teams to medical facilities throughout the Army to review in- and outpatient care facilities.
"We welcome the visit, welcome anybody who thinks they can help us make things even better," said Brig. Gen. James Gilman, commander of the Brooke Army Medical Center here.
An inspection team visited last week and more visits are expected. However, BAMC leaders are not waiting for the results; they are already conducting internal reviews of their own.
"We did go take a look at our facility and have our eyes on a few places," said Gilman. "We've made changes in a couple of leadership positions when we felt the people doing those jobs were not serving the wounded warriors well.
"One of my takes from the testimony was people had trouble getting folks to listen at Walter Reed. We've certainly gone back and have emphasized the importance of that," the general said.
With the military health care system under fire, Gilman was quick to point out the BAMC positives, to include the representatives from the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration on hand for case managers and patients.
"We provide office space for the VA people," he said. "They don't work for me; I didn't hire them, can't fire them. They are there to be an advocate for the Soldiers.
"Providing access to them, making it easy for Soldiers to come see them in the hospital was the right thing to do and we did it."
Despite an onslaught of negative press, the commander also was quick to praise Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was stationed from June 2004 to June 2005. "I saw miracles performed there every day too."
He said the difference between Walter Reed and BAMC isn't related to the quality of medical care, but to space and number of support facilities.
"We care for about 380 or 390 wounded warriors on a 3,100-acre post vs. twice that many on a 113-acre campus, it can't be much bigger than that," said Gilman, adding that BAMC's proximity to services on Fort Sam Houston offers another advantage.
Services include a post exchange, shoppettes, commissary, recreational facilities, schools, equestrian center and several fitness centers.
"Fort Sam Houston is not just BAMC; it's a huge complex," said Maj. Gen. Russell Czerw, installation commander. "We have the honor of providing great care to our wounded warriors, but not only that, we have about 26,000 personnel in about 30,000 acres on this installation including Camp Bullis, as well as more than 70 tenants we provide command and control to."
Wounded warriors and their families have several housing options with 228 rooms at the BAMC barracks, an additional 150 at the Powless Guest House and 58 at the four Fisher Houses. Wounded warriors with families facing extended recovery periods are housed on post, and their children welcomed into the Fort Sam Houston schools. Additionally, wounded warriors are invited to take advantage of the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, a retreat carved out of the guest house with food, recreation and an opportunity for fellowship.
"Facilities, less space limitations, those kinds of things help us do better," Gilman said. "Do I think we are taking care of some patients who aren't happy' Yes I do. But by and large, we do very, very well."
"If we find something that's not working, we're going to fix it and we'll move on. That's the total goal," Czerw added.