Thursday, August 25, 2005

Walter Reed To Close

The panel responsible for determining which military installations to close has voted to close Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. According to the NYTs:
The independent commission reviewing a Defense Department plan to shut or shrink hundreds of military bases nationwide voted this morning to close the historic Walter Reed Army Medical Center...The Pentagon plans had called for the closing of the medical center and the construction of a $1 billion national military center with the same name on the campus of the naval medical center in Bethesda, Md., about seven miles from the present Walter Reed.

Panel members noted that the cost of retrofitting the 96-year old medical center would be higher than those of building a new facility. They voted 8 to nothing in support of the Pentagon's recommendation, with one abstention.
While I'm a bit worried that closing the medical center could hurt the care some of our wounded veterans get, the plans to rebuild a new state-of-the-art VA hospital is something to rejoice over. According to Phillip Longman's "The Best Care Anyway" in The Washington Monthly, the VA medical system, especially Walter Reed, was "producing the quality of care in the country." If you've never read this article, it's one of those perception changing works all journalists wish to write. Basically it banishes the nightmare visions we have of VA hospitals which were ingrained in the popular consciousness through films like Born on the Fourth of July. What's even better about the article is that Longman argues that by using the VA example we can truly reform this country's crazy expensive healthcare system without giving up care.

But before we get all exurberant though, the Pentagon should pledge that the new facility will be built and operational before Walter Reed is shut down so that our returning injured aren't sacrificed because its bureaucratically expedient.