Monday, March 19, 2007

At Walter Reed, it's not just Building 18:

Burst steam pipes near electrical cables, rats, mold, and holes in floors and walls -- all of that extends far beyond the well-publicized problems at the notorious Building 18.

And 9NEWS NOW has learned managers may have been slow to respond.

A worried quality control inspector, Mark Cordell, finally quit last week in frustration....

Cordell says the worst of it may be Building 40. The old research institute has been condemned, but last week, the private contractor now responsible for maintaining Walter Reed sent workers in to fix a leak.

Cordell points to a picture showing the terrible decay inside the building and says, "The water is actually on the ground floor here. There is water halfway across the ground floor. And there's electricity too. There's high voltage that goes to this building. Two thirteen thousand volt transformers. Through the basement filled with water."...

And there are problems throughout Walter Reed, for instance, in Building 14 -- where many soldiers from Building 18 were moved.

Meanwhile, I see that everyone was too busy working out how the glorious transformative effects of privatization would take occur to notice that everything at Walter Reed was going to hell in a handbasket:

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.

..., needed repairs went undone as the non-medical staff shrank from almost 300 to less than 50 in the last year and hospital officials were unable to find enough skilled replacements....

The sequence is convoluted, but it appears than in years of seeking bids from private companies and then dealing with protests by both the private firms and government-employee managers (depending on who had most recently emerged the winner of the infighting), no one seemed to notice that the place was falling apart -- or at least no one was willing to take ownership of the problem.

Ultimately, the winning bidder, IAP, sought temporary help to deal with the departure of government employees, but, we're told, IAP couldn't find enough qualified workers. Meanwhile, more and more wounded troops were coming into Walter Reed all the time.

At a certain point, you'd think you'd want to do everything possible to avoid a wrenching transition during what would be critical recovery time for grievously wounded troops. You'd think you'd make it a priority to minimize disruption at Walter Reed. Maybe you'd freeze the current system in place and not continue the bidding process in the middle of a war.

Ah, but that's because you don't think like a CEO.

(Via BuzzFlash and Real Clear Politics BuzzTracker.)

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