With roughly 70 days to complete the integration with Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), officials say the transition process is moving along smoothly and, though there's been much progress, staff can still expect to see additional changes leading up to September.
"We're certainly on the last lap of the race," said David Oliveria, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Program Manager and Deputy Chief for Facilities for Navy Medicine National Capital Area. "During this time, we're making sure we've paid attention to crossing the "T's" and dotting the "I's" so that when you cross the finish line, there's a quality product of which we all can be proud," said Oliveria.
Throughout the BRAC journey, transition leaders from WRAMC and the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) have been working to ensure staff and clinics are fully prepared for integration. At this point, most clinical areas are ready, though some administrative areas are awaiting completion.
"Some parts of integration simply can't happen until you are all together. We will cross that milestone in the coming months [which] will provide the segway for putting the finishing touches on our integration process and effort," said Capt. David Bitonti, Chief of Staff for Integration and Transition. "We have made, are making, and continue to make good progress with the integration of our staff and clinics."
Bitonti added that chiefs have been appointed for each department and clinic to oversee their respective areas, allowing a cohesive workforce, better serving our wounded, ill and injured service members, their families, and all eligible beneficiaries.
The process of integrating departments began with the development of a program for design, providing the foundation of the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for each department or service. These CONOPS outlined how integration leaders envisioned their particular department or service functioning in the new facility as a single entity, Bitonti explained.
"They are taking the best processes and practices from each facility and merging them," he said.
To accommodate the influx of patients, visitors and staff expected after integration, the hospital has undergone major transformation. Doubling the size of the current facility, about 1 million sq.ft. has been added, most of which is in medical treatment areas, said Oliveria.
Although 200,000 sq.ft. is still under renovation, Oliveria said, "We're well positioned to handle the additional patient load as a medical center."
"We're not only building a hospital [within] a hospital, while we continue to operate the hospital, but we're doing it in a wartime environment," said Oliveria. Transition leaders agree this has been one of the key challenges of integration.
To ensure a successful execution of this transition, staff cooperation has played a vital role.
Bitonti noted, "Our staff has been nothing short of superb. Their level of professionalism, dedication, and caring is unparalleled. They have done this while working around new construction, renovation, road closures and rerouting, temporary and permanent moves, swing space, and everything else associated with a project of this magnitude. Through it all, they have maintained an excellent attitude and 'can do' spirit, and their commitment and dedication to wounded warrior care has skyrocketed, during some of the highest patient census period."
As transition draws near, the pace of several projects will be ramping up.
Bitonti added, "Over the next few weeks, people can expect to see increased activity in preparation for moves, completion of construction and renovation and continued department or service orientation and training."
"We've probably taken on [one of] the largest construction projects in military medicine and we've done it in an incredibly condensed timeline. Trying to blend two cultures is very significant, and trying to put them under one roof to operate to provide health care is significant. We will be unique in that when we get done we will be the hub for wounded warrior care, for traumatic brain injury and for amputee care. This will be the place to come," Oliveria said. He added, "It's amazing the amount of talent that's being brought together in this one facility to provide health care for our beneficiaries.