This month the Army opened a new $10-million wing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in order to consolidate all its amputee care under one roof. Existing facilities, including rehabilitation clinics for upper- and lower-body amputees as well as workshops for the technicians who build prostheses, are currently scattered throughout the main hospital. The new 30,000-square-foot, two-story wing will also include better recreational facilities, including a climbing and rappelling wall, and improved and expanded computerized trainers. One trainer simulates everyday domestic tasks that amputees have had to re-learn after being fitted with prostheses. A military vehicle trainer is planned in order to help amputees prepare to re-enter military service, if they so choose.
Construction on the wing began in August 2006 after significant revisions intended to make the facility look and feel more like a civilian gym. Since 2001, Walter Reed has treated around 6,700 military patients, including 680 amputees. Despite improvements including the amputee wing, the hospital is scheduled to close in 2011 and its operations merged with the more modern and spacious Navy hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Lawmakers have challenged the closure decision, but in May Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it should proceed as planned.
Ten million for a facility that’s only good for four years? Just goes to show you how seriously the Army takes amputee care. And how eager it is to avoid a repeat of this year’s brouhaha over crappy conditions at Walter Reed.