The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity’s Warfighter Deployed Medical Systems Project Management Office recently completed its initial phase of modernizing Combat Support Hospitals overseas and throughout the United States, nearing the culmination of more than a decade of effort. To date, eleven Combat Support Hospitals have been converted into up-to-date Army Hospital Centers, with the 27th Hospital Center at Fort Stewart, Georgia, becoming the final active duty (COMPO 1) unit to undergo conversion.
David Wirtz, Jr. serves as product manager for the Medical Devices Assemblage Management team within USAMMDA’s Warfighter Deployed Medical Systems PMO. In this role, Wirtz oversees all Hospital Center conversions and related planning efforts at the higher leadership level, coordinating the prioritization and fulfillment of equipment shortfalls while also overseeing the team’s Divestiture Roadshow, which is an initiative created to help Army units identify and remove excess equipment and supplies.
“The aim of the Force Design Update [for the Hospital Center conversion project] is to improve on the static, one-size-fits-all structure of the Combat Support Hospital with the more modular, scalable design of the Hospital Center — including shelters and tentage, water distribution and waste water management, power management, medical equipment and supplies,” said Wirtz.
“A hospital conversion is unit-specific,” he continued, “and usually takes approximately six to twelve months to complete, depending on how many fielding actions are involved. It takes roughly twenty USAMMDA personnel to inventory and issue a conversion.”
Wirtz explained the matter of specificity, stating the Army recognizes different units have different strategic readiness needs. Whereas each Hospital Center is based around a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, and at least one 32-bed field hospital, the mission-specific needs of any given Hospital Center are supported by a tailor-made strategic configuration of various modular units: Medical Augmentation Detachments, Surgical Augmentation Detachments, and Intermediate Care Ward Detachments. The Medical Augmentation Detachment enhances the 32-bed field hospital with operational dental care, one additional Intensive Care Unit (12 beds), one Intermediate Care Ward (20 beds), additional microbiology capabilities, and outpatient services for all classes of patients. The Surgical Augmentation Detachment provides thoracic, urology, oral maxillofacial surgical capabilities, 24 additional ICU beds, outpatient services, and microbiology resources. The Intermediate Care Ward Detachment offers 60 beds, forming three additional ICWs that provide intermediate nursing care and additional personnel to support nutrition and patient administration capabilities.
In light of the amount of time and manpower it takes to transform a Combat Support Hospital to a Hospital Center, it is clear to see that the conversion of nearly a dozen entire units over the past decade was no small task, and Wirtz described the lengthy project in greater detail.
“Efforts to modernize theater hospitalization have been in the works since before 2010, largely in response to lessons learned from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “In 2014, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army officially approved the Hospital Center design, and the first conversion was completed in 2016 with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 in Qatar. In 2017, the 10th Combat Support Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado, became the 627th Hospital Center, following which the 1st Medical Brigade completed an After-Action Review, identifying issues and challenges for consideration by the U.S. Army Forces Command, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, USAMMDA’s higher headquarters. Since then, nine other units have been converted.”
Although numerous developments have occurred since the beginning of the Hospital Center conversion project in 2010, Wirtz’s team has not ceased in moving forward to complete the given task, which ultimately supports the strength and readiness of our nation’s Warfighters. These changes include an organizational realignment in 2019, which saw the group transfer from the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency to USAMMDA, as part of the command’s new Warfighter Deployed Medical Systems PMO.
As deputy product manager for the Medical Devices Assemblage Management team, Nicolle Thompson assists with all Hospital Conversion planning efforts, and coordinates with the Role of Care 3 Lead, Gabriela Brantmier, to help prioritize and guide the Hospital Center team. Thompson and the entire group remain focused on the critical needs of the Warfighter in the field.
“The aim of the Force Design Update, with regard to optimizing the strength and readiness of Role 3 hospitals, is embodied by USAMMDA’s mission to ‘develop and deliver quality medical capabilities to protect, treat, and sustain the health of our Service Members,’” said Thompson. “The conversion of Combat Support Hospitals to Hospital Centers helps the Warfighter directly by providing a scalable, flexible and modular deployment capability that is fully equipped while also unencumbered by unnecessary components. In this way, combatant commanders are at greater liberty to tailor the hospitalization capability according to mission-specific needs.”
Although USAMMDA remains the only USAMRDC subordinate command involved in the Hospital Center conversion project, many other critical Department of Defense organizations have helped to support this monumental effort. These groups include, but are not limited to, the Army Futures Command, Army Materiel Command, Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, USAMMA, U.S. Army Reserve, and the Defense Logistics Agency.
While the 27th Hospital Center at Fort Stewart, Georgia, constitutes the final active duty (COMPO 1) unit to undergo conversion, the 818th and 805th Army Reserve Hospital Centers (COMPO 2), Regional Training Site (Medical) Camp Parks in California, and Army Prepositioned Stock-4 in Japan all have yet to be converted. Each of these sites is scheduled for conversion during the current fiscal year.
With the completion of the Hospital Center conversion project drawing near, Wirtz explained that going forward, USAMMDA will continue to support converted Hospital Centers by tracking and addressing critical Class VIII (medical material and consumables) equipment shortages due to funding issues or inability to procure devices that meet the required essential characteristics, by way of continued Army Property Book reconciliation teleconferences on a monthly or quarterly basis, as necessary.
USAMMDA is a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, under the Army Futures Command. As the premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, USAMMDA is responsible for developing and delivering critical products designed to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters across the globe. These products include drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices and medical support equipment intended to maximize survival of casualties on the battlefield.