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Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) commander, delivered his “State of WRNMMC” address on Jan. 15 during three town hall meetings in the Memorial Auditorium.

The address began with the commander discussing staff accomplishments of 2012, his priorities for 2013, challenges for WRNMMC in the coming year, and what’s on the horizon for the nation’s largest military medical treatment facility.

Topping the list of accomplishments is the positive feedback regarding patient care and other services provided at WRNMMC, Stocks said. The commander explained he receives numerous messages and correspondence from patients, families and high-ranking military and civilian officials praising the work of staff at Walter Reed Bethesda. “I get letters, emails, phone calls, and people [approach] me, and the good news is, I can’t think of the last time [I received] a true patient complaint.”

Stocks said he does receive concerns from beneficiaries regarding “things we are [already] trying to change, such as telephone access. But what I hear more are, ‘Thank you for the positive outcome for my husband, wife, daughter, son, aunt or uncle;’ ‘Thank you for having such a wonderful facility;’ ‘Thank you for having such wonderful people.’”

Another accomplishment made at WRNMMC last year was in the area of personnel contracts and GS position hiring, Stocks said. “We didn’t want to lose the good people doing the work here, and we wanted to make sure [they’re] treated fairly,” he continued. He explained the time for review of contracts was lengthened, and salaries were brought more in line with others in the market regarding contractors. “[This] should help us out with continuity and taking care of our staff.”

Other achievements the commander listed include accreditations for a number of Graduate Medical Education (GME) programs at WRNMMC, where he said the majority of health-care professionals for the Department of Defense (DOD) train. “We’re very proud of that, and it’s not just number, it’s quality.” He also mentioned the opening of the Murtha Cancer Center in December, which is the only DOD comprehensive cancer center of excellence, and renovations of the sterile processing center, as well as upcoming renovations for the medical center’s dining facility.

Stocks said WRNMMC continues to improve information technology (IT) for beneficiaries and staff. The IT staff has increased to better respond to customer concerns and trouble tickets, which have decreased, and a one-stop shop is open in the America Building from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays, the commander continued. He added public wireless is being installed in patient waiting areas and inpatient rooms, and should be finished by the end of March.

Staff parking, and bringing eligible patients back to the world-class medical center for their primary care, are two challenges Walter Reed Bethesda continue to tackle, according to Stocks.

He explained the law limits the number of parking spaces for federal buildings, and employees are encouraged to use public transportation and carpool, as well as be considerate of patients and not park in designated patient parking garages and areas. Construction of a 500-space staff parking garage is in the planning stages, he added.

The medical center is also continuing its recapture efforts to encourage beneficiaries to “come back to military medicine” to receive their primary care at WRNMMC, Stocks explained. “We have to have enough primary care patients so our primary care staff is gainfully employed, [patients] for our specialty clinics, [which] support our [GME] programs, [and] so we can appropriately spend the government’s money we’re allocated. Those things are very, very connected,” the commander added.

The WRNMMC commander said the medical center plans to continue with its position description (PD) regional classification review concerning more than 4,000 civilian jobs in the National Capital Area (NCA). The effort is designed to make sure every civilian job description across Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical Command (JTF CapMed), is properly classified [with] the right PD description, series and grade. “This review will be completed at the end of February,” Stocks said.

Also on the horizon, Stocks said there will be a WRNMMC Strategic Plan update meeting on Feb. 26. The Strategic Plan is being developed with input from WRNMMC beneficiaries and staff. “We’re going to come back to you with information on the three things you said were most important, which were: number one, access and convenience for patients; number two, taking care of staff concerns; and number three, communications.”

He said there will also be a Joint Commission mock survey during the week of Feb. 25 through March 1.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Deryl Cavness attended the commander’s briefing, and said he found it very informative and helpful. “I appreciate the fact the commander is willing to answer questions at the end of these town hall meetings. As for what I would like to see added, it would be a brief mention of the quarterly award winners if possible,” said the assistant noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the surgical intensive care unit.

Aleta Keck, a medical support assistant and customer service advocate for General Surgery, queried the commander about patient parking during the town hall. “I was surprised [he] was not asked more questions. Sometimes, staff needs to speak on behalf of the patients.”

Cmdr. Katherine Schexneider, assistant chief of staff for quality at WRNMMC, agreed more staff should ask questions during the town halls. “We had a few questions, but it would be great to hear more. We’re such a large facility that our folks in one area may have no ideas of the great things that are happening in another area.”

Information regarding town halls are posted on the WRNMMC intranet.