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American Forces Press Service

Walter Reed Problems Could Damage Staff Morale

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2007 – Top DoD and Army officials are concerned that recent widely publicized problems in outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here might overshadow the quality of inpatient care and lower staff morale.

It is critical that the military community remain confident in the military health system, Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., told members of the House Armed Services Committee today.

“I believe that it’s very important at this time that we maintain the morale of our medical professionals, of all those who serve our warriors,” Winkenwerder said.

“We need to maintain the confidence of our entire military in the military health system. It’s critically important,” he said. “People should not question, should not lose their confidence in the care that they are going to received.”

Walter Reed employs about 600 full-time physicians, about 600 military and civilian registered nurses, and 550 licensed practical nurses and other para-professionals, according to the center’s Web site. It is the Army’s largest medical facility and one of the largest in DoD.

The Army’s top officer expressed concerns that the widely reported images of substandard housing and administrative at the center paint a broad picture of poor care across the branch.

“Every day there are thousands of very dedicated medical professionals that are tending to our soldiers and their families,” said Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff.

“I really am concerned that we paint broadly across this entire professional community things that have been reported and fail to recognized that there are real heroes on the battlefield and everywhere else in the medical community that every day are working against great odds, great obstacles, great bureaucracy to tend to our soldiers and their families,” he said. “I am very, very proud of these people.”

The Army’s top medical officer said soldiers don’t go to war on the battlefield without combat medics.

“It is said a soldier won’t attack an objective out of the sight of a medic. Our ‘68 Whiskey’ medics are the best in the history of our Army,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, Army surgeon general.

“Care for soldiers on the battlefield is second to none,” he said.

Kiley conceded that the center needs to fix problems with the outpatient managing of soldiers, their quality of life and the disability system, but said that no one has complained about the quality of medical care they have received at the top medical facility in the Army.

Dr. David S. C. Chu, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said the high standards of the military’s medical services are evident in their historic successes during this war.

“We have the lowest disease and non-battle injury rate in the history of the republic and the highest rate of survival from wounds the American military has ever sustained,” he said.

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