June 28, 2013

Walter Reed Army Hospital Closes

Walter Reed Army Medical Center lowered its distinctive maroon flag for the final time today.


After 102 years, the medical center will be moving from Washington DC to two new buildings in Maryland and Virginia. Today’s flag retirement symbolizes the end of a military unit, and is part of a weeklong series of events celebrating the hospital.

Speaking to the Washington Times, hospital spokesman Chuck Dacey said: “It’s looking back and celebrating the legacy and history, but also looking forward to the future of the newly realigned tri-service hospital.”

Since 1909, Walter Reed has treated military patients and their families, from World War I to the present day. It counts amongst its patients General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Currently, hundreds of thousands of patients each year are treated at the center.

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of General Eisenhower, told ABC: “Frankly, I will say that it’s with a heavy heart that Walter Reed closes. I don’t know. I know that there was a process for that decision, but we’ve lost a great, important part of history.” She remembers baking a cake for her grandfather, and bringing it to him, when he spent the final months before his death at Walter Reed.

Scheduled events include a concert on Wednesday for military families, featuring ’70s rock band the Doobie Brothers. On Friday, leadership of the medical center will be transferred from Major General Carla Hawley-Bowland to Brigadier General Joseph Caravalho Jr, at a change-of-command ceremony.

The new operations will be at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va. Even though it will cost approximately $1 billion to move, and upgrades at Bethesda will cost roughly $200 million, it is expected to save money in the long run. Walter Reed has fallen into disrepair in recent years, and it makes more sense to move to a new location, rather than update the current buildings. The new facility at Bethesda will be named the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Located on over 100 acres, Walter Reed Army Medical Center had humble beginnings, opening in 1909 with just 80 beds. It was named after Major Walter Reed, an army physician who led the team that discovered that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitos, not human contact.

In 2007, an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that Walter Reed was in terrible condition. In Building 18, an outpatient ward, they discovered patients living amongst black mold and mouse droppings. This led to questions about the level of care offered to the wounded military, and caused great embarrassment to the Bush administration.

Today, it treats over 770,000 outpatients annually, with inpatient facilities for about 150. It treats service members, military retirees and their families. A major part of Walter Reed’s mission since opening, has been rehabilitation services for the wounded, including amputee care.

Most of the moving will take place in August, and in September, the old campus will be handed over to the District of Columbia and the State Department. Of the many buildings located on the site, certain ones will be deemed national historic landmarks, and therefore preserved. Others will likely be torn down. The city hopes to develop part of the site for retail and other uses.

Read more:

NY Times

Washington Times

ABC12.com

Wikipedia

Walter Reed Army Medical Center – Official Website