By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceNovember 1, 2007
LANDSTUHL, Germany (American Forces Press Service, Nov. 1, 2007) - Patients at a new medical transient detachment barracks that opened here several weeks ago, point to the facility as proof that the military is living up to its promises to ensure troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan get the best care possible.
When word broke in February of substandard conditions at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center, outpatients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center were getting shuttled to their appointments from a barracks almost 20 miles away.
Their 10-person, open-bay rooms at Kaiserslautern's Kleber Kaserne were noisy and offered little privacy. But the biggest headache was the 30-minute bus ride back and forth to meet with doctors, case managers and liaisons.
Those days are gone. Two weeks ago, wounded and sick servicemembers from the combat theater undergoing outpatient treatment here transferred to the new facility, which offers a higher quality of life and easier access to care.
The four-story, two-building facility -- a former Air Force hotel transformed by a $2.5 million renovation -- sits directly on the Landstuhl hospital grounds. It boasts one- and two-person rooms equipped with computers with free Internet access, cable TV with DVD players, and telephones to stay in touch with loved ones.
Up to 230 residents can pop popcorn in their in-room microwaves and keep sodas cold in their own mini refrigerators. They can wander down the hall to play video games, use the full-service laundry, or follow the aroma that wafts through the facility to pour themselves a fresh cup of coffee.
Work on the new facility started in the spring, shortly after news of problems at Walter Reed came to light and officials promised quick fixes throughout the military medical system. The Air Force donated the buildings and most of the money for renovations, and construction moved along quickly until the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"They went all out for the warriors, I have to say," said Army Capt. Katrina Gawlik, medical transient detachment commander.
Capt. Gawlik called the conditions optimal for Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen who typically spend up to two weeks here getting care. "We tell our warriors who come here their only mission is to heal," she said.
About 60 percent of the patients who leave here will go on to other treatment facilities in the continental United States, including Walter Reed. The other 40 percent will return to duty -- most in Iraq and Afghanistan, but others in Djibouti or Kosovo.
Among those to return to their units is Capt. Paul Tarman, a 1st Cavalry Division Soldier evacuated out of Iraq due to a shoulder injury. After 16 years in the military, Capt. Tarman has seen the full range of military medical care facilities, including some that needed improvement. When facilities aren't up to snuff, "you lose a little bit of hope," he said.
Capt. Tarman said the new Landstuhl facility goes a long way in promoting healing. "You have everything you physically need," he said, adding that the amenities "put you in a different mindset," to focus on getting better.
He called the new outpatient treatment unit here a perfect example of the military living up to its promise to pull out all stops in caring for wounded and sick Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. "You want to believe that people care about what you've gone through," he said. "This is a perfect example" of that care.
Col. Kirk Lawrence, deputy chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, pointed to the new facility as an example of the services working together to care for wounded warriors. "All we want is the best care for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," he said.