DoD Working on Patient-Care Issues

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2007 - The Defense Department is working to address patient-care problems recently identified at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the department's flagship medical facility, a DoD spokesman said today.

Wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed still receive the best medical care available, but they do face some administrative and personnel problems that need to be fixed, Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"Taking care of our wounded servicemembers is about taking care of the entire person, and taking care of the entire person is making sure that their administrative needs are taken care of, that when they're outpatients that their housing needs are taken care of, and there are some shortcomings there," Whitman said.

A recent Washington Post series of articles detailed housing problems, a lack of assistance and bureaucratic frustrations for Walter Reed outpatients, who live in buildings on post or in nearby houses, apartments and hotels while continuing treatment or awaiting decisions about their duty status.

The Army has known about these issues for some time and has been working on them, Whitman said, but DoD leaders have just been made aware of them. Top leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, are discussing the issues and how best to address them, he said.

"The department takes these issues very seriously; they're being looked into," Whitman said. "Our servicemembers that are wounded deserve the kind of holistic care that goes beyond just the medical treatment that they receive in our facilities, which is unquestionably outstanding."

Whitman added that Winkenwerder is looking into whether similar problems may exist in other DoD medical facilities. No formal review has been announced, however.

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