A new chapter in health care in the National Capital Region began Nov. 8 at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fort Belvoir community hospital.

"This is an awesome day, it's an awesome moment in history," said installation commander Col. Brian W. Lauritzen. "We do this in the shadow of, what I believe is if not the oldest, then the second oldest hospital in the Army's inventory."

The new, state-of-the-art, 120-bed facility is slated to open on the installation by spring 2011 at the old South Nine Golf Course and is being constructed as a result of Base Realignment and Closure 2005. It will replace DeWitt Army Community Hospital, which opened in 1957.

"I assure you, the 85,000 beneficiaries of the DeWitt Health Care Network and our staff of 1,500 are proud of the service they've rendered within the walls of [our] 50-year old hospital," said DeWitt Health Care Network commander Col. Kenneth Canestrini. "However, each year, it has become more difficult to accommodate new technologies and practices within those walls."

BRAC 2005 combined medical care for servicemembers, military retirees and their family members at two locations in the National Capital Region - National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., and Fort Belvoir.

Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said the new facility will be a tangible demonstration to the nation of what "we really stand for in Army medicine and in the military medical community ... This groundbreaking truly defines what we are. What we are is a community of very dedicated professionals committed to raising the health of the total military family to the highest level possible."

The new hospital will have six levels and 1.2-million square feet of space. It will include a 10-bed intensive care unit; a 12-bed behavioral health inpatient unit; a cancer center; an emergency center; an operative services center with 10 operating rooms; diagnostic centers such as pathology and radiology and modular clinic space dedicated to outpatient services, with additional space planned for future outpatient expansion.

"Today is significant because it represents the future direction of military health care," said Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command and acting surgeon general. "It represents progress, it represents the direction and growth of military health care. And, most importantly, it represents our continuing commitment to provide the highest-quality, compassionate care to military servicemembers, veterans and their families."

Congressman Jim Moran, who represents Virginia's 8th District, noted the new Belvoir hospital will be "the premiere military health care facility in the world."

Additional space is planned at the new facility for future outpatient expansion. The project also includes two parking garages, and surface parking for 2,600 spaces, a helipad, ambulance shelter and dedicated central energy plant. The design also provides for logistics and administrative services, food services, a chapel and other amenities.

The Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing the construction of the $747 million hospital, which is expected to be complete by late summer 2010. The facility will then be turned over to the U.S. Army Medical Command to staff and equip.

Page last updated Fri November 16th, 2007 at 14:20