Walter Reed Hospital: Privatized Medicine, Not Universal Healthcare

Steven Greenhut posted an item about the Walter Reed situation and harkened it to a chilling look at what government run healthcare would look like.  There’s only one thing wrong with his premise; The Army has privatized many of the services at Walter Reed Hospital and an estimated 250 of the 300 government workers who give care and comfort to wounded soldiers have left, leaving these injured men and women in the hands of a private sector business.

It’s not that the private sector is bad, per se, but this particular contractor, IAP Worldwide Services, run by a former Halliburton executive, is the same firm that did such a stellar job getting water to the residents of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It reminds me of that old joke of soldiers in a foxhole realizing their weapons were made by the lowest bidder.

Steve’s premise that care at Walter Reed amounts to socialized medicine is flat out wrong.  According to the Army Times, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, the general fired as head of Walter Reed after the story broke, because Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday (the Army has also told soldiers who are patients there not to speak to the media).

California Rep. Henry Waxman wants Weightman to testify about an internal memo on the privatization of services at Walter Reed that could “put patient care services at risk….”

The Army awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, and sought to privatize services as early as 2000. 
With Greenhut and the Register’s editorial board always preaching full support of the free market over government service, the Walter Reed case (and other poorly run VA hospitals across the country), is a case in point that the private sector is not always the answer.  Here’s what we should be asking in this case:

  • Who gave IAP a contract to run Walter Reed?
  • Why did the Army increase the government’s cost to run Walter Reed by $7 Million, to make IAP bid appealing?
  • After they failed in New Orleans, why did IAP get the government contract for Walter Reed?
  • Why did 5 of every 6 Walter Reed employees, a totla of 250, quit after IPA got the contract?
  • What are we getting from IPA doing for our $120 Million tax dollars?
  • Do conservatives really support the troops if this is th eway they chose to care for them?
  • Who is to blame?

Not all VA Hospitals are poorly run.  Here’s a link to a story about a quality run VA Hospital. 

  9 comments for “Walter Reed Hospital: Privatized Medicine, Not Universal Healthcare

  1. March 6, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks, Dan, for unspinning Greenhut’s spin on Walter Reed. Perhaps if those crooks in the White House were to stop allowing their private contractor buddies to waste OUR money while NOT doing what they are supposed to be doing (in this case, providing proper care for our wounded troops), then these services could be carried out better and more efficiently.

  2. Susan
    March 17, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Media types like yourself, Dan, are as guilty as the government for neglecting to perform job responsibilities correctly, honestly and with respect to those who are effected by your actions. IAP was awarded a contract to perform facility maintenance only at Walter Reed (bldg. 18 was not inclusive in this contract) and more than 300 IAP employees and subcontractors have been diligently working at WRH since the project began on February 4, 2007. IAP does not provide any type of medical care or services at WRH and is not in any way associated with “the government workers who give care and comfort to wounded soldiers”. Pointing your finger at the wrong party only shifts the burden of responsibility away from those who should be held accoutable for this situation. Perhaps you should check your facts, report actual news and leave the fiction to those who publish novels.

  3. RHackett
    March 17, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Susan. From all accounts facility maintenance wasn’t being done either.

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    March 17, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Susan –
    There is a press release on the IAP site with a statement in regards to Walter Reed and how they assumed the contract in Feb 2007 (the contract was awarded a year earlier); the facilities management staff of nearly 300 dwindled to 60 by the time IAF took over and was not replaced (presumably with the knowledge that they would be let go later anyway).

    The statement includes no information on Bldg 18 being part of the contract. This little detail hasn’t been reported anywhere. And given the length of time between when this story broke and your little missive, then either IAP has an inept PR staff or its something being made up.

    Please point me to news stories on the details you’ve provided in your post. And you miss the point of my orginal post which has to do with severe underfunding of the VA hopsitals in general and how this isn’t reflective of universal healthcare. It’s also a case of the administration using privatization to enrich their friends.

  5. Dan Chmielewski
    March 19, 2007 at 8:28 am

    The Associated Press is reporting that Building 18 was included in the contract. The story ran in today’s OC Register’s A section. Since the company has been waiting for the Army to finalize the contract for more than 2 years, the inevitable finalizing contributed to the decline in the facilities.

  6. Susan
    March 19, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    I’m glad I have a pair of thigh-high boots.
    The Associated Press is wrong. The contract does not included bldg. 18, however, bldg. 18 has become a major focal point since the break of this story and IAP has responded accordingly. As for your prior post, you indicated that you had read the IAP press release and yet the numbers you quote are again waaaay off the mark. The following paragraphs are taken directly from the IAP site: “Since beginning work on Feb. 4, 2007, IAP’s personnel and staff have responded with a sense of urgency to address maintenance concerns throughout the WRAMC complex. IAP’s personnel and staff are fully committed to addressing facility maintenance and preservation tasks assigned by the Army.

    From the first day, IAP has maintained a full complement of employees and subcontractor personnel. On Feb. 4, 2007, 290 IAP and subcontractor personnel began work. Of those, 100 personnel were assigned to facility maintenance work. On March 5, 2007, 305 personnel were at the job.”

    This discussion is nothing more than a feeble attempt to sensationalize a story in order to attract attention. Who, what and how the contractor came to be a WRH is not news — creating and enacting a plan to improve conditions at WRH is the story. Not very exciting, huh……

    My facts? reporting 101: seek and find a reliable source.
    I guess you were absent from class that day, Dan.

  7. Dan Chmielewski
    March 19, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Wow Susan. “The Associated Press is wrong.” Seek a retraction then. I did seek a reliable source. It’s the AP. You trust a press release from the people that did such a good job getting ice to the people of New Orleans after Katrina. So yes, it is news and it is relevent that the privatization of WRH is more of the GOP enriching their friends and cronies. Its noteworthy that Dan Quayle sits on their board.

    I’m not exactly sure what your creds are to decide what’s news and what isn’t. The rule of reporting 101, which I don’t think you get, “Your mother says she loves you. Check it out.” AP is steadfast as a source of non-partisan news and information. They reported bldg 18 as being part of the contract. That’s good enough for me by your standards. I have a degree in journalism. And one in PR. Which profession do you practice?

  8. Dan Chmielewski
    March 19, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Susan, please post a copy of the contract

  9. Dan Chmielewski
    March 20, 2007 at 8:43 am

    A summary of coverage aout WRH that I’m sure Susan will say is all wrong.

    from MedicalNewsToday
    Privatization Questioned
    In other news, the Walter Reed situation has “focused attention on the Army’s decision to privatize the facilities support workforce at the hospital,” the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, “[s]ome Democratic lawmakers have questioned” the decision in 2006 to grant IAP Worldwide Services — a contractor “with connections to the Bush administration and to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary” — a $120 million, five-year contract to maintain and operate Walter Reed facilities. IAP took over management at Walter Reed last month. Since then, the number of management workers at Walter Reed has dropped from about 180 to 100, “and the hospital found it hard to hire replacements,” the Post reports. Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who recently was fired as commander of Walter Reed, testified last week that the privatization, in addition to the decision to close Walter Reed by 2011, “absolutely” contributed to problems at the facility. IAP in a statement said that it has “responded with a sense of urgency to address maintenance concerns throughout the (Walter Reed) complex” (Vogel/Merle, Washington Post, 3/10).

    from ArmyTimes
    In a letter from the committee to Weightman, the members said the Garibaldi memo “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel.’ … According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”

    The committee’s letter also noted that Walter Reed awarded a five-year, $120 million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.

    The committee also noted that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed dropped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with 50 private workers.

    from Fox News (Fair and Balanced)
    WASHINGTON — An Army contract to privatize maintenance at Walter Reed Medical Center was delayed more than three years amid bureaucratic bickering and legal squabbles that led to staff shortages and a hospital in disarray just as the number of severely wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan was rising rapidly.

    Documents from the investigative and auditing arm of Congress map a trail of bid, rebid, protests and appeals between 2003, when Walter Reed was first selected for outsourcing, and 2006, when a five-year, $120 million contract was finally awarded.

    The disputes involved hospital management, the Pentagon, Congress and IAP Worldwide Services Inc., a company with powerful political connections and ***the only private bidder*** to handle maintenance, security, public works and management of military personnel.

    While medical care was not directly affected, needed repairs went undone as the staff shrank from almost 300 to less than 50 in the last year and hospital officials were unable to find enough skilled replacements.

    from the Huffington Post (printed a section of the AP story that the OC Register didn’t run).
    The Army’s plan then was to eliminate 360 federal jobs at Walter Reed in November and turn the work over to IAP, according to the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal workers’ trade union. But the Army failed to notify Congress 45 days in advance, as required by law, so the turnover was delayed until early this year.

    Then it was IAP’s turn to have problems.

    When work finally began at the hospital, IAP made an immediate request, which the Army approved, to hire 87 temporary skilled workers for up to four months “to ease the turbulence caused by employees being placed into positions or other installations and otherwise finding new jobs early,” said Steve Sanderson, the Walter Reed official.

    However, a “tight” job market in the Washington area meant that only 10 qualified temporary employees were found, he added. Meanwhile, injured soldiers continue to arrive weekly to a short-handed, deteriorated hospital, which the Army still plans to close in 2011.

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