Fort Belvoir Community Hospital opens
E. J. Carter, the first patient at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, smiles at staff members upon arriving at the new hospital from DeWitt Army Community Hospital Aug. 31, 2011. The new state-of-the-art hospital opened and began serving patients this morning. Carter, a retired Defense Department employee, became the new hospital's first patient after transferring to the facility via ambulance early this morning from DeWitt Army Community Hospital.

FORT BELVOIR, Va., Aug. 31, 2011 -- Fort Belvoir Community Hospital officially opened for business this week following the successful transport of the last patient from DeWitt Army Community Hospital.

After more than six years of intricate and comprehensive planning, the new hospital is triple the size of its predecessor and the number of clinics and outpatient services is nearly doubling. Inpatient bed capacity triples from 40 to 120.

The last patient was transferred early Wednesday morning by a comprehensive staff of nurses, pharmacy, ambulance staff, etc. who have been planning and practicing for the transition since February.

"We're here to safeguard the health and well-being of our patients so it's a smooth, swift transition," said Col. Sophia Tillman-Ortiz, inpatient move director.

E.J. Carter, and her husband, retired Army field artillery major, Jeff Carter, arrived at Dewitt Hospital Emergency Room at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday. The couple assumed E.J. would be transferred to the military hospital at Bethesda, where her cardiologist had been assigned. The Carters learned that not only was her doctor now at the new hospital, she would be transported by one of the ambulances that responded to the attack on the Pentagon nearly 10 years ago Sept. 11.

"For me, it was an easier transition knowing my wife's doctor is assigned a half mile down the road in this state-of-the-art building," Carter said. He recounted how FBCH staff met him in the parking lot, directed him to his reserved parking space, and was "wined and dined" by staff and chaplains until he was ushered up to his wife's room.

"This place is beautiful," E.J. said. "A lot different from the old hospital, but I haven't tried the food yet so we'll see."

"This hospital gives us the space to elevate health care to another level," explained Col. Kathleen Ford, deputy commander of nursing.

Over the next four to eight weeks, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital will add new services as staff and equipment become available. Cardiac catheterization, radiation oncology, and hematology oncology will be added in the near future.

"We are still delivering the same high-quality care the same way, it's just a different environment," said Navy Cmdr. Scott Johnson, director of transition.

One big change, however, is the addition of the 12-bed, inpatient behavioral health service at the new hospital. This new mission, not seen before at the DeWitt hospital, opened for day one services this week. The staff charged with providing this service previously ran inpatient behavioral health at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which moved all of its inpatients to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., Saturday.

"That's an example of a perfect merger between Walter Reed and DeWitt," Johnson said.

For the last few months, staff members diligently trained to become acclimated with the state-of-the-art hospital in preparation for the first day of patient services. More than 2,300 employees received workspace orientation and each area is fully staffed to maintain DeWitt's mission.

"Late last week I walked onto the inpatient ward on the sixth floor and got goosebumps; it smelled like a hospital and was clean, the beds were made with linens, all the equipment was ready. It's no longer a construction site, it's become a hospital. We're breathing life into it," Johnson said.

Page last updated Tue September 6th, 2011 at 00:00