Walter Reed Enters Final Phase with Patient Moves
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2011 About 200 outpatient wounded warriors are expected to move from Walter Reed Army Medical Center here this weekend to the nearby National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., as the two hospitals move closer to becoming one.
More than 100 inpatients will move from Walter Reed’s wards to Bethesda by ambulance Aug. 28, and the flag will be lowered for good at the 102-year-old Army hospital.
Also as part of the changes in military health care facilities in the national capital region mandated by the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, some of Walter Reed’s functions, patients and staff are moving to the newly expanded DeWitt Army Community Hospital on Fort Belvoir, Va.
After the Army and Navy hospitals merge, the Bethesda campus will be renamed as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Walter Reed’s era of caring for privates to presidents has spanned both world wars, the Korean conflict, Vietnam and the return of prisoners of war, and the decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At a recent transition ceremony, military medical leaders reflected on Walter Reed’s history as the Army’s flagship of medicine.
“It is bittersweet that we are marking an ending to mark a new beginning at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” said Army Col. Norvell V. “Van” Coots, commander of Walter Reed’s health care system. “You can go anywhere in the world, and … people who don’t speak English know the words ‘Walter Reed.’ To me, that’s how you define ‘iconic.’”
Built for 80 inpatients in 1909 under a single roof in a Georgian-brick building, the former Walter Reed General Hospital eventually became the bustling medical campus it is today, with 72 buildings on a 113-acre plot of land, closely surrounded by a neighborhood in the upper-northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital.
“[There was] no room to expand and meet the changing demands of the complexity of the wounded warriors,” Coots said. “The room was found on the grounds of the naval hospital in Bethesda,” he said.
Standing ready for Walter Reed’s patients are the newly dedicated Wounded Warriors Barracks and Wounded Warriors Complex, dedicated two weeks ago at Bethesda.
Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, Army surgeon general and a former Walter Reed commander, called the transition a time to celebrate the “history of this great campus, and to celebrate unquestionable high-quality care” in the course of its lengthy history.
Navy Rear Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, National Naval Medical Center commander, said he looks forward to the quality of care the merger will provide.
“We recognize, as teammates, to … take Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center and forge [an] integrated staff and facilities to become the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda,” he said. “The synergy and partnership that that creates will [provide] the highest, most pristine medicine.”