By Sandy Aubrey/ParaglideMarch 9, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (March 9, 2012) -- In mid-February, Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commander, received an email expressing concern about the care some wounded Soldiers were receiving on Fort Bragg. Helmick immediately ordered an XVIII Abn. Corps General inspection of the matter.
A panel of subject matter experts led by Brig. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, XVIII Abn. Corps chief of staff, and Col. Brian T. Canfield, commander of Womack Army Medical Center, held a press conference today at the new Warriors in Transition complex. The media event was held to provide an update of the steps the command has taken to address wounded warrior care.
Garrett said the IG team is looking at processes and procedures in the Warrior Transition Battalion. The team's ongoing inspection includes conducting sensing sessions with different groups in the WTB, interviewing chains of command (from squad leader to battalion commander), family members, care givers, the Veterans Administration liaison, and the battalion surgeon and chaplains offices.
The team has also reviewed over 280 administrative separations, policy letters and standard operating procedures, Congressional inquiries and suicide and domestic violence incidences; all in an effort to ascertain the quality of care wounded warriors receive and whether or not their needs are being met.
Concurrent to the IG inspection, Helmick directed the hospital commander to request an outside inspection by the Warrior Transition Command to look at the medical aspect of the WTB. The results of this inspection, as well as the IG inspection, will be provided to Army leadership and Helmick no later than April 1. However, Garrett shared some insight into the results of the WTC inspection.
"No significant issues or red flags if you will, were raised concerning the medical care and treatment of our Soldiers at the preliminary outbrief with General Helmick last week," said Garrett.
The Warrior Transition Command team found that commensurate with inspections done a year ago by the Joint Commission, a national civilian hospital accreditation body which governs accreditation procedures, there is no deficiency in compliance with medication management, Garrett explained.
Although much has been done in the past two weeks, time is of the essence to move quickly to ensure Soldiers are receiving the best care.
"We are working as quickly as possible to inspect the Warrior Transition Battalion so that we can ensure that we are properly caring for our Soldiers," said Garrett.
"They deserve the best care and we will ensure that they receive it here at Fort Bragg," he said.
Garrett said another way the command has reached out to wounded warriors and their families was to hold a town hall meeting Feb. 28. The meeting was to address any issues they had concerning the care they received. The town hall was led by the Womack Army Medical Center commander with the support of a panel of subject matter experts from the medical center.
Canfield provided an overview of the town hall. He began his presentation by explaining that the mission of the WTB was to provide primary care case management for warriors in transition to establish conditions for healing and to promote their timely return to the force or transition to civilian life as veterans.
Currently, there are about 485 Soldiers in transition at Fort Bragg, with about 26 more due in the next few weeks. Canfield said these numbers are considered normal given that the fluidity of the organization is fairly constant. He pointed out that thanks to the Fort Bragg leadership's sensitivity to the complexity of the installation, unlike other WTBs that have a ratio of about one squad leader for every 10 Soldiers, Fort Bragg's ratio is one squad leader for seven Soldiers.
About eight percent of those at the WTB were evacuated from theater due to combat wounds. About 26 percent were also evacuated out of theater but for non-combat related injuries and another 66 percent include non-deployment injuries (i.e. training injuries, illnesses).
Canfield pointed out that the return-to-duty rate has steadily risen since 2009 when it was at 37 percent. In 2011, the RTD rate had risen to 63 percent.
He shared some of concerns addressed at the town hall to which WTB Soldiers and families were invited but not required to attend.
Among the issues brought up at the town hall were concerns about the challenges faced in obtaining medical equipment such as wheelchairs; Soldier and family frustration in dealing with complex medical diagnosis processes in non-WAMC health care facilities; and the difficulty in dealing with the disability processing system.
Soldiers and family members also expressed concerns about the amount of medication prescribed as compared to options that may be available that are non-medication related, as well as the perception of the quality of care from the perspective of the patient.
After the issues were heard, the panel answered questions posed by participants.
"Some of them (takeaways) were relatively easy and we've applied some quick fixes for navigating some of these. But some were a little more complex and we've had to take a little deeper look to make sure we have the right resource application so that it's not a one-time solution, but it's a process fix," said Canfield.
After the briefings, the commanders led a tour of the new, $58 million complex that will be home to the WTB. The complex is located next to WAMC and comprises 260 rooms for Soldiers, in 130 suites. Family readiness support assistance and the Department of Veterans Affairs will have offices in the complex to better serve Soldiers and their families.
Garrett noted that the Army is always seeking ways to take care of Soldiers, including those who have been injured or hurt. He reiterated that all levels of command at Fort Bragg are determined to continue to do what's right and what's best for Soldiers.
"We are leaving no stone unturned. If there are issues out there that need to be addressed, we want to know about them, and we want to fix them. We owe our Soldiers and their families nothing less," said Garrett.