Hagel: Health System Review to Begin ‘Immediately’
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2014 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters traveling with him on a multi-country 12-day trip that he began asking military leaders about Defense Department hospitals and health care facilities around the world about a week ago.
Hagel has placed Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in charge of a 90-day review of the military health system.
“I suggested that we think about this and come together with some concurrence within our military and our leadership of a thorough review of all of our facilities,” he said.
After meeting with Work and the secretaries or undersecretaries of each service and other key personnel, on May 27 the defense secretary announced the parameters for a comprehensive review military health system.
The review comes just days after the commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. was replaced following the deaths of several patients after what was routine treatment, and amid several on-going investigations into the separate health care system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, where there have been allegations of unusually long delays for medical care.
“We've got to focus on three primary things,” Hagel said. “…Are our people getting what they need and when they need it? Are they getting safe attention and medical care? And … is it consistently the high standard of quality that we commit to our military men and women and their families around the world?”
The review will be led by Work, with the assistance of the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and the direct participation of the secretaries of the military departments and the service chiefs, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said.
“In addition, Secretary Hagel has asked Deputy Secretary Work to solicit the perspectives of outside experts in the areas of patient safety and quality care,” Kirby said.
Hagel said he has requested weekly updates on the progress of the review.
"As the secretary has made clear, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people,” the admiral said. “To the degree we learn about issues affecting the health care of our military health beneficiaries, including active duty service members, retirees, and their eligible family members, we will address them."
“We're going to start this immediately,” Hagel said. “These are big operations. They're imperfect operations. But this is part of leadership and oversight -- to assure … and reassure our people that we are doing what we need to do in order to fulfill a commitment we made to them in health care.”
A final report is expected to be delivered to Hagel by August 29.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter @rouloafps)