General Is Fired Over Conditions at Walter Reed

#1
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New York Times said:
General Is Fired Over Conditions at Walter Reed

By DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: March 2, 2007
WASHINGTON, March 1 — The two-star general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center was relieved of command on Thursday, following disclosures that wounded soldiers being treated as outpatients there were living in dilapidated quarters and enduring long waits for treatment.

The officer, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, a physician and a graduate of West Point, was fired because Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey “had lost trust and confidence” in his ability to make improvements in outpatient care at Walter Reed, the Army said in a brief statement.

The revelations about conditions at the hospital, one of the Army’s best-known and busiest centers for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, have embarrassed the Army and prompted two investigations, several Congressional inquiries and a rush to clean up the accommodations for outpatients, where residents lived with moldy walls, stained carpets and other problems.

A series of disclosures published prominently in The Washington Post about the living conditions, the red tape ensnarling treatment and other serious problems have challenged the notion promoted for years by the Army, especially since the war in Iraq, that wounded soldiers receive unparalleled care at Walter Reed.

Army officials have defended the treatment provided to most patients at Walter Reed, especially the most serious cases, those admitted to inpatient wards on the hospital’s campus a few miles from the center of Washington.

But they have acknowledged that the large number of wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, currently around 650 patients, has taxed doctors, nurses and other care providers and forced them to rely more heavily on overflow facilities to house outpatients who must remain near the hospital for treatment.

Officials refused to provide the specific reasons for General Weightman’s firing.

The Army has admitted in recent weeks that the system it uses to decide whether wounded soldiers who have been moved to outpatient status will be able to return to active duty often takes too long and has promised to change the system. At Walter Reed the process has taken an average of over 200 days, a source of frustration to soldiers and families who are awaiting decisions about what benefits they will receive if they retire.

Treatment of wounded soldiers has also been spotlighted recently in a documentary recounting the treatment received by the ABC News anchorman Bob Woodruff, who was wounded in Iraq last year. Mr. Woodruff contrasted his care with that of soldiers, finding that Veterans Administration regional medical centers provide retired soldiers with good care but that local V.A. hospitals are less skilled at dealing with complex problems like traumatic brain injuries.

Mr. Harvey told reporters Thursday that the Army was also examining conditions at other medical facilities, both in the United States and abroad. “We’ll fix as we find things wrong,” he said.

Paralleling the Army effort, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appointed a panel last week to examine conditions at Walter Reed and other Defense Department hospitals it chooses, including the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Mr. Gates endorsed the decision to relieve General Weightman in a statement Thursday.

“The care and welfare of our wounded men and women in uniform demand the highest standard of excellence and commitment that we can muster as a government,” he said. “When this standard is not met, I will insist on swift and direct corrective action and, where appropriate, accountability up the chain of command.”

Mr. Gates had signaled earlier, after a visit to Walter Reed, that senior officials would probably be relieved of command.

A Pentagon official said that, in addition to General Weightman, a captain, two noncommissioned officers, and an enlisted soldier involved in outpatient treatment were being reassigned. He said he could not provide further information because of Defense Department confidentiality rules.

General Weightman assumed command of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center on August 25, 2006. He oversees medical facilities in seven other states in addition to Walter Reed and is one of the most senior officers to be relieved in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He could not be reached for comment.

The Army said that command of Walter Reed would be taken over temporarily by Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army’s top medical officer.

A 1973 graduate of the United States Military Academy, General Kiley received a medical degree in 1982 from the University of Vermont and has held a series of medical commands in the past two decades, including “land component command surgeon” during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In comments to reporters on Feb. 16, just before the first of a series of articles was published by The Post, General Weightman conceded that there were problems with outpatient care at Walter Reed, but said that improvements were being made.

“The family members get a little frustrated because, I mean, we are really disrupting their lives,” The Associated Press quoted him as saying.

In the last year, General Weightman said, Walter Reed had increased to 17 from 4 the number of caseworkers charged with helping outpatients with the paperwork and other requirements of the patient disability evaluation system, which determines whether soldiers can remain in the military or retire with full benefits.

He said that the process often took months or years at Walter Reed because the hospital handled some of the most complex medical cases, involving head trauma and other conditions that made gauging recovery difficult.

Outpatients at Walter Reed have received initial treatment but require further care or rehabilitation before retiring from the armed forces or returning to active duty.

Addressing reports that recovering soldiers were asked to attend daily inspection, even when under medication, Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said that there would be periodic inspections in the outpatient facilities. Mr. Boyce added that soldiers who are able were asked to attend a daily morning meeting where treatment options and other information were discussed but that the sessions were not inspections.

Mr. Boyce said the worst conditions in the outpatient residences had been corrected but added the Army was planning to make more repairs, like replacing a faulty heating and air-conditioning system that was the cause of the mold on the walls
 
#3
The relief of MG Weightman is unfortunate. He had been at Walter Reed only since Sept. However, he was in command and thus responsible. The officer I want to see fired though is his boss LTG Kiley who has known about the problems at Walter Reed for three years. The problems at Walter Reed were with the outpatient operation and not the hospital proper.

Army policy is that evaluations are to be done in 140 days but at Walter Reed its taking 209 days.The extra time is due to the complexity of the cases Walter Reed see.
They get the toughest trauma cases and soldiers with PTSD which is difficult to treat.
The typical outpatient has to file 22 documents with 8 different commands.They have added more staff liason [from 4 to 17] between the patient and the disability disability system.
 
#4
Pretty poor for a facility only 30 years old but I suppose with the Pentagon wanting to build a new one in Maryland they cut the repair budgets since making the decision.

What does surprise is that WRAMC is in Washington and treats Congressmen and Senators - I suppose they must have found conditions "acceptable" unless they were being treated for blindness
 
#5
As I said voyager unless you were in a medical hold in say Building 18 you wouldnt know.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/03/weightmanout070301/

Senator: Army surgeon general should go
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Mar 1, 2007 17:27:38 EST

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called for the Army’s top medical officer, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, to be relieved of duty Thursday afternoon. McCaskill’s remarks came after Maj. Gen. George Weightman, Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s commander, was relieved of duty earlier in the day.

“It’s clear that General Kiley, the surgeon general at the Army, knew about the conditions at Building 18,” McCaskill said. “The irony of this situation is General [George] Weightman stepped up. He’s only been there a year.”

Kiley is to temporarily replace Weightman, according to an Army press release.

McCaskill said Weightman took responsibility for the problems in the medical disability system while Kiley has been quoted as saying the problems weren’t serious or that there weren’t many of them.

McCaskill had “been considering this for a week,” said Adriane Marsh, McCaskill’s spokeswoman. “It’s beyond just Walter Reed,” she said, referring to problems in the disability evaluation system that have been documented as Army-wide.

Weightman, commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was relieved of command at 10 a.m. today by Secretary of the Army Dr. Francis Harvey, according to an Army press release.

This action has been under consideration for the last several days, with the final decision being made yesterday, the release said.

Weightman was informed this morning that the senior Army leadership had lost trust and confidence in the commander’s leadership abilities to address needed solutions for soldier-outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Kiley, commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, will be acting temporarily as the Walter Reed commander until a general officer is selected to replace Weightman.
 
#6
An additional article.
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/03/tnsreedfolo070302/

Editorial which for once I agree with.

Editorial: Blame at Walter Reed

Posted : Friday Mar 2, 2007 7:35:22 EST

In the wake of intense media coverage about problems with housing and medical evaluations plaguing injured combat troops who are outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, the Army sacked the hospital’s commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman.

Commanders ultimately are responsible for what happens on their watch, so Weightman would appear to be a reasonable target for the service’s wrath.

Then again, maybe the Army fired the wrong general.

The troubles at Walter Reed —substandard housing for injured troops and a dysfunctional medical evaluation system — did not start on Weightman’s watch.

Service members spoke about these problems in congressional hearings two years ago. The Government Accountability Office reported on the problems last March. And the Army Inspector General has been investigating the problems for over a year.

The GAO report traces the problems back to the tenure of Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, who commanded Walter Reed from June 2002 to September 2004.

Kiley is now the Army surgeon general. And he is, in fact, the man who fired Weightman.

But wait. It gets worse. Kiley is also now the acting commander of the hospital.

It is impossible to believe Kiley was unaware of this sorry situation when he commanded the hospital — and if he was, one must question his competence and leadership. Evidently, he has remained either willfully ignorant or unconcerned during his tenure as surgeon general.

After the scandal broke, in fact, Kiley blamed the media for exaggerating the problems — even as Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody acknowledged the Army’s failures.

Leaving Kiley to fix this mess is the latest misstep in a tragedy of errors that began with Army officials blaming the troubles on low-ranking noncommissioned officers and ordering (and then rescinding) mandatory daily room inspections for the very same injured troops who exposed the problems to the media.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., rightly points out that the problems at hand go well beyond Walter Reed — which makes them Kiley’s responsibility.

The general has failed in those responsibilities. He should resign.
 
#7
The Army Secretary was fired today and LTG Kiley is not too far behind.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/03/harvey070302/

Francis Harvey resigns as Army Secretary
Kris Osbborn - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 2, 2007 16:41:50 EST

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned, officials with the Department of Defense and the Army confirmed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he had received and accepted Harvey’s resignation on March 2.

The service has endured a hailstorm of congressional and public criticism for the treatment of wounded combat veterans at its Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. News of the poor treatment was revealed in late February in articles published Army Times and the Washington Post.

The resignation came one day after Harvey fired Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman as the commander of Walter Reed, according to a March 1 Army statement. The statement said service leaders had “lost trust and confidence” in Weightman’s ability “to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care.”

Gates made no link between the Walter Reed controversy and Harvey’s resignation.

Harvey was sworn in as the 19th U.S. Army secretary in November 2004.
 
#8
tomahawk6 said:
The Army Secretary was fired today and LTG Kiley is not too far behind.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/03/harvey070302/

Francis Harvey resigns as Army Secretary
Kris Osbborn - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 2, 2007 16:41:50 EST

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has resigned, officials with the Department of Defense and the Army confirmed.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he had received and accepted Harvey’s resignation on March 2...
Scratch one Secretary of the Army. Heads certainly rolled on this one and not just some NCO or Jr Officer's scapegoated noggin either. LTG Kiley's defensive 'it's all been overblown' press conference will do him in as well. I'm a bit surprised and impressed with Gates, he didn't fcuk around.
 
#9
Fairly easy for Gates to do. He's new to the job, so he doesn't have to cover his own ass. Also, from a bureaucratic standpoint, it allows him a little bit more leeway. This action will have sent shockwaves through the Pentagon and it allows Gates a little bit of protection before the man gets swallowed up by the bureaucracy which he is supposed to be leading.
 
#10
Virgil said:
Scratch one Secretary of the Army. Heads certainly rolled on this one and not just some NCO or Jr Officer's scapegoated noggin either. LTG Kiley's defensive 'it's all been overblown' press conference will do him in as well. I'm a bit surprised and impressed with Gates, he didn't fcuk around.
LTG Kiley looks like he is going to get the full treatment from Karl Rove and for once somebody deserves it, this hurting Bush.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#11
Slightly off topic but from the report on Yahoo News about the goings on at Walter reed Hospital.

One paragraph stood out for me:

The Washington Post reports were particularly embarrassing because Bush and senior defence officials have repeatedly visited the wounded in the hospital to show their concern for those who served in battle.
Link

My Bold. Bush, according to the report, has repeatedly visited the wounded. Can Bliar say the same thing? Can he fcuk.
 
#12
Sounds familiar. Wonder if the patients get harassed by dickhe4ds as well.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#13
Well done Sam

( this is the kind of brisk no nonsense way of doing things that from time to time restores a little faith - for whatever reasons may lie behind the decision)

Let's hope someone gets their eye back on the ball and USFOR wounded get the top level treatment the Brits always assume to be the case.

( on a side note it was interesting to see recently a 13 year old American kid had been referred to GOSH for treatment he couldn't get back home. Nice to feel occasionally that we do things as well as,if not better than US medical authorities)


Lee Shaver
 
#14
Auld-Yin said:
Slightly off topic but from the report on Yahoo News about the goings on at Walter reed Hospital.

One paragraph stood out for me:

The Washington Post reports were particularly embarrassing because Bush and senior defence officials have repeatedly visited the wounded in the hospital to show their concern for those who served in battle.
Link

My Bold. Bush, according to the report, has repeatedly visited the wounded. Can Bliar say the same thing? Can he fcuk.
The problems are with the outpatient operation where the soldiers are housed in outlying "hotels" on the installation. Walter Reed is scheduled for closure as it is old and Bethesda will be renamed Walter Reed and expanded.
 
#15
tomahawk6 said:
The problems are with the outpatient operation where the soldiers are housed in outlying "hotels" on the installation. Walter Reed is scheduled for closure as it is old and Bethesda will be renamed Walter Reed and expanded.
Bethesda Naval hospital is a nice facility and even better area (high-rent district) of the DC metro region than the current Walter Reed (stuck up against the run down inner-city). But, having lived near there, its going to be a major cluster-fcuk traffic-wise on an already busy Wisconsin Ave.
 

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