Entries in Closing (1)


After 102 Years, Walter Reed Army Medical Center to Close

U.S. Army Medical Department/Bernard S. Little(WASHINGTON) -- Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Washington, D.C. hospital that has treated the country's war wounded for more than a century, is closing its doors.

Although the historic red brick, pillared building which lies six miles from the White House will stay, Walter Reed's operations will move to a new location in Bethesda, Maryland that will consolidate three military hospitals.

The move, which has been planned since 2005 to cut costs, will take place throughout August.  But patients and staff will say goodbye at a ceremony to be held on the grounds Wednesday.

Since it was built in 1909, the small hospital with an 80-bed capacity has grown to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of troops who served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea and, most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The now 5,500-room facility currently treats about 775,000 outpatients each year, including veterans and their families.

Many of the nation's most heroic and influential people have visited Walter Reed. Allied commander-turned President Dwight Eisenhower died there, and a black-and-white photo taken in 1960 shows Sen. Lyndon Johnson visiting Richard Nixon, vice president at the time, who was treated for a staph infection.

But Walter Reed's reputation as a state-of-the-art hospital for privates and presidents alike came under fire with a 2007 investigation by The Washington Post, which uncovered unlivable conditions and a failure to ease rehabilitated veterans back into civilian life.

According to The Post, more than five years of sustained battle had "transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients."  Black mold and mouse droppings adorned the now infamous outpatient ward, Building 18.  And bureaucratic red tape delayed discharges, leaving patients in limbo before they returned home or to active duty.

The Post's findings spurred a government investigation and the firing of some top military leaders.  They also led to improved military medicine at Walter Reed and elsewhere.  But plans to close Walter Reed's campus in the nation's capital would still move forward, with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates telling reporters, "Far better to make an investment in brand-new, 21st-century facilities."

The new facility, called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, opens in September.  The State Department and the District of Columbia will take over the Washington campus Sept. 15.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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