By Army News ServiceMarch 1, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 1, 2007) - Two weeks after Walter Reed Army Medical Center made national headlines for poor outpatient care, the center's top leader has been relieved of command.
Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and WRAMC, was relieved of command this morning by Secretary of the Army Dr. Francis J. Harvey.
Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, will serve as WRAMC commander until another general officer is selected for the position.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the action. "A bedrock principle of our military system is that we empower commanders with the responsibility, authority and resources necessary to carry out their mission. With that responsibility comes accountability," Gates said last week.
Today, Gates said the care and welfare of wounded servicemembers demands the highest standard of excellence and commitment. "When this standard is not met, I will insist on swift and direct corrective action and, where appropriate, accountability up the chain of command."
According to an Army news release, the service's senior leadership had lost trust and confidence in Weightman's abilities to address needed solutions for outpatient care at WRAMC.
Reported problems included delays in record keeping and personnel systems, poor living conditions and uncompleted maintenance. Although a major renovation that will entirely overhaul the building is now planned, contractors have already repaired plumbing and painted walls at Building 18 until residents can be moved to a new facility.
Kiley said Feb. 23 that his staff was working to add more case managers to help Soldiers through the medical process and personnel system.
"We want to be responsive to their (patients') concerns, both medical and quality of life, and we're going to move out smartly on that," he said. "We worry when Soldiers think we are ignoring them. We want to correct that."
Also last week, Harvey directed Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Richard Cody to develop and implement an Army Action Plan to address shortcomings at WRAMC and Army-wide. The AAP is focusing on Soldier accountability, health and welfare; infrastructure; medical administrative processes; and information dissemination.
The Army also is participating in a Defense Department Independent Review Group, announced Feb. 20, examining servicemember's outpatient care and military administrative processes.
Both the Army Action Plan and the DoD Independent Review Group will continue examining medical rehabilitative conditions and administrative care in the weeks to come. Army senior leadership will also continue to take prompt corrective action as deficiencies are identified, the Army secretary said.
"We'll fix as we go; we'll fix as we find things wrong," Harvey said recently. "Soldiers are the heart of our Army and the quality of their medical care is non-negotiable."