Thursday, December 20, 2007

Commander’s Column

Change is almost NEVER welcomed! Even when it is tempered with the realization of necessity, it is uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. It depletes our personal energy, our resources and our sense of stability. But change is inevitable; change is crucial to progress; and change, in the final analysis, usually turns out to be our ‘‘ally” rather than the ‘‘enemy.”

The announcement of the BRAC decision to integrate Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center started a huge ‘‘snowball” of change concern rolling. Most of us realized that Military Medicine in the Nation’s Capital would never be the same and that the enormous task before those that work here to bring integration into reality would require in-depth planning; and, yes, significant change. A part of the integration planning process involved a requirement to study and to try and measure the environmental impact the move to Bethesda would cause. The Navy’s draft Environmental Impact Statement after extensive study and review was recently released to the public.

What is an Environmental Impact Statement [EIS]? EISs are government mandated investigations that were first authorized by the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] of 1969. EISs are designed to assist decision-makers in determining the best infrastructure and business changes to be made and are prepared with public participation. They should provide information, analysis, and a variety of action alternatives, allowing managers, stakeholders, and everyone involved to envision the probable effects and consequences of a major project on its environment. EISs are meant to be all-encompassing, comprehensive studies whose goal in the action alternative is to try and find solutions minimizing adverse effects and, if possible, actually enhance the quality of the local environment. Some areas studied for the EISs include: air quality analysis; traffic; pedestrian and transportation impacts; geology; water resources; noise; infrastructure; socioeconomics; and human health and safety. Throughout this process the public is kept informed on the status and progress of the studies and proposals for action. Our Bethesda campus and community EIS is ‘‘on the street” for local comments, opinions and suggestions via email, mail or phone.

Another change in the BRAC integration plans for Walter Reed Army Medical Center [WRAMC] and the National Naval Medical Center [NNMC] is the new Joint Task Force National Capital Region-Medical [JTF CAPMED] and how we, NNMC and Navy Medicine National Capital Area will become the Navy Component to the new Joint Task Force. The National Capital Region encompasses the Army, Navy and Air Force military treatment facilities and all of their patients and beneficiaries in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia — located close to our Nation’s Capital.

Among many taskings, the JTF CAPMED has been given is the requirement to oversee, manage and direct all healthcare delivery by military medicine within the Joint Operating Area [JOA] and ensure that military medical readiness of our personnel and that we are ready for any eventuality that might strike this area. National Capital Area Army, Navy, and Air Force medical facilities now have a reporting chain to the JTF CAPMED. The JTF CAPMED is also responsible for managing and distributing all military medical resources in the area and oversees the BRAC implementations and related construction projects. This is a huge new development that leadership is rapidly working with the new JTF CAPMED personnel in planning for success.

As we continue forward to create the new world-class joint medical treatment facility, the changes will be many. Many will not be easy and as we progress, we will certainly uncover the need for even more changes. I ask you to embrace this period of change, this time to develop new and better ways to take care of our patient population as a whole. Please be patient, open-minded and focused on the grand new vision the new medical center will embrace — the very best in world class healthcare during this process.

Commander sends,