Exercise tests plan for upcoming Walter Reed patient relocation
Rear Adm. Paula Brown, deputy commander of First Naval Construction Division, Civil Engineer Corps, visits a model suite in the new wounded warrior barracks at National Naval Medical Center Bethesda. The new construction is part of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission to accommodate patients who will transfer from Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda when the hospitals integrate into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this September.

BETHESDA, Md., June 14, 2011 -- The National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center conducted an inpatient movement rehearsal exercise June 12, 2011, to test all aspects of the inpatient move that is scheduled to occur in August.

The patient move from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, or WRAMC, to Bethesda is a key milestone in the Base Realignment Commission, or BRAC-mandated consolidation of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army flagship medical centers in the National Capital Region.

"Planning for today's drill had been ongoing for the past nine months and included more than 100 medical and logistics experts from National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Military Center," said Navy Capt. David A. Bitoni, chief of staff for integration and transition, National Naval Medical Center. "Together, the Navy and Army medical team developed an intricate movement plan that we tested today with good results."

"The lessons learned will help ensure we get it right when we move the actual patients this August," Bitoni explained. "It will ensure that we provide a seamless transition for our wounded warriors and their families."

During the exercise, 12 simulated patients were transported via ambulance from WRAMC in northeastern Washington, D.C., to National Naval Medical Center, or NNMC, in Bethesda, Md.

Montgomery County Police and Metropolitan Police Departments participated in the exercise to ease the movements through the public roads without the interruption of traffic signals. The rehearsal was scheduled for Sunday to minimize travel time, mitigate adverse impact on the local communities and ensure uninterrupted patient care at both medical centers.

Sequencing and all aspects of each patient move were closely monitored and documented by a movement control center at WRAMC and a receiving control center located at NNMC.

The ambulances, which carried medical staff posing as wounded warriors to add a sense of realism to the exercise, were directed to one of two receiving sites upon arrival at NNMC. NNMC staff reviewed the simulated patients' status and provided them with identification bands before transporting them directly to their designated unit.

Ambulances used were then sanitized, restocked, and returned to WRAMC to complete another evolution.

According to Bitoni, the sequencing plan based on lessons learned from the movement exercise will be finalized the morning of the actual move late this summer based on the actual patient census, acuity, and unit. The goal is to move patients from different units and transport them approximately every three to five minutes.

"The reason for alternating between units is an attempt to prevent both the sending and receiving units from being overtaxed at any one time," said Bitoni. "The majority of patients will be moved individually by ambulance. Depending on the acuity and special needs of each patient, some may be accompanied by a nurse and/or a provider."

The movement plan includes guidance for patient families who will be able to travel via shuttle from WRAMC to NNMC, or use reserved parking on the NNMC campus if they opt to use their personal vehicles.

"The relocation of WRAMC inpatients to the NNMC campus is an important milestone in the BRAC timeline," said Navy Capt. Mike Malanoski, commanding officer, Naval Support Activity Bethesda. "While this event will be an tremendous undertaking, our Navy and Army staffs are well prepared to ensure that we leave no wounded warrior of family member behind during this unprecedented consolidation of two flagship medical centers."

"Today's exercise will help us be even more prepared to ensure we provide the most seamless transition for our wounded warriors and continued world class care and support for them for years to come," he said.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations, released May 13, 2005, require realigning and moving staff and resources at WRAMC to modern health-care facilities now under construction at NNMC and Fort Belvoir, Va., by Sept. 15, 2011. The recommendations became law Nov. 9, 2005.

Page last updated Tue June 14th, 2011 at 00:00