Thursday, April 3, 2008

Commander’s Column

Yesterday I had the privilege to be a part of a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony marking the grand re-opening of our Mercy Hall. Mercy Hall, building 50, located just across the street from the main hospital building, houses our outpatient ill and wounded warriors, the old medical hold and combat casualty care populations, which need to reside near the National Naval Medical Center for additional tertiary care and treatment.

The two-year, $4.8 million dollar project to renovate and refurbish Mercy Hall was initiated by then Commander of NNMC, Rear Admiral Adam Robinson. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery funded the project, entitled ‘‘Building 50 ADA Renovations” in September of 2006 to bring the berthing facilities into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Among the improvements, a new elevator was installed; upgrades were made to bathrooms to include new fixtures; all new finishes were made to walls, floors, and ceilings; exterior handicap accessible steps and ramps were installed with associated site work and support systems.

In addition to ADA-related renovations, there were many other projects completed including the replacement of the roof, a new fire alarm system, all interior and exterior lighting fixtures, and the locks were changed on all interior doors. Repairs were made to exterior handrails on all floors and enhancements were made to the patio area. A security camera system and new call system were installed to assist with urgent and emergent needs.

Prior to the completion of the project, building 50 patients were supplied with new bedding, irons and ironing boards, microwaves, TV⁄DVD combination sets, clock radios, new phones and local telephone service access, cable TV, WiFi connections and two general use computers with internet connection in the lobby area. Six sets of brand new, high efficiency washer and dryers were placed in a convenient location for resident use.

Mercy Hall’s 50,000 square feet of space is divided among three livable floors comprised primarily of billeting rooms. There are 99 total rooms. The third deck and a portion of the second deck are generally used to house officer and enlisted geographical bachelors, but a sudden surge in wounded warriors needing outpatient housing can be accommodated. The remainder of the second deck and the first deck serve as ill and wounded warrior spaces and are comprised of 48 single or up to two-person rooms with a bathroom.

The majority of these rooms accommodate Marines from distant operational units needing world-class tertiary care. The facility houses patients placed on Limited Duty, transferred to a Transient Personnel Unit (TPU) to await orders, or going through the medical board process which now requires 80 continuous days on site with the new disability system pilot project authorized by the Secretary of Defense, Congress and the President from the Dole-Shalala Commission’s study recommendations after the Walter Reed Army Medical Center adverse news articles.

When the Mercy Hall renovation project was initiated, it was understood that the number one priority in Navy Medicine was care of our wounded warriors from the Global War on Terrorism. No cost is too high and no measure or need too large for our returning heroes who have paid a price much greater than most for their service. It is our duty and an honor to care for them and their families. We can provide a safe and comfortable healing environment, while doing everything in our power to stop their pain, heal their wounds in the flesh, spirit, and mind, relieve their frustration, and provide rehabilitative care and therapy so they can return to active duty or move on to a rewarding civilian life.

Wednesday’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was a major milestone in Navy Medicine’s and NNMC Bethesda’s program to enhance the care and healing environment for our patients and their families. Our next step in making the Navy Base at Bethesda a world-class state-of-the-art tertiary care campus will be the expansion of the NNMC complex through the BRAC process, if the Final Environmental Impact Statement this month and the scheduled Record of Decision next month support the 614 million dollar BRAC construction and renovation contract recently signed with Clark and Balfour Construction companies. Concurrently, there are plans for a new National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injuries and Psychological Health facility to be built by Mr. Arnold Fisher and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Foundation on the campus.

As we continue to make significant strides to improve our capabilities, facilities, living and working environment with a multitude of new projects, I will use this column to keep you updated. Next up will be the latest on Navy and Joint Task Force (JTF) initiatives followed by traffic and gate security improvement plans and the near term outlook for parking.

Commander sends,