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Politics

Young says he told Army of care lapses

He blames military leaders and details soldiers' poor treatment at Walter Reed.

By BILL ADAIR
Published March 8, 2007


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WASHINGTON - Citing the cases of a wounded soldier lying in a pool of urine and one with a head injury who three times fell out of his hospital bed, Rep. C.W. Bill Young said that he had complained about problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center but that Army leaders failed to fix them.

At a hearing on the shoddy conditions at the Washington military hospital, Young said Wednesday he had not previously gone public because he wanted to respect family privacy and "did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war."

Young, a Republican from Indian Shores who was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 1999 to 2005, was criticized last week for not speaking up sooner.

Not speaking up

On Wednesday, he put the blame on Army leaders, saying they had frequently testified before his committee about health issues but failed to reveal the problems.

"Why didn't you just level with us? Why didn't you tell us what the situation really was, if you knew, rather than continue to suggest that everything was okay?" Young asked.

Two Army generals said they were trying to fix the problems.

"We have made some changes," said Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff. "And we're not sitting around. You know, there's plenty of people putting together commissions that are going to look at this from the outside. And we're going to respond to it."

Other members of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee said they agreed with Young that Army officials never sounded the alarm about the problems.

Funds available

"If it's money, we can help," said Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee. "But we can't help if we don't know what the problem is."

Young, noting that he and his wife, Beverly, have spent many days helping the wounded at Walter Reed and other hospitals, said he had heard that Army brass warned soldiers to stay away from the Youngs because they were "troublemakers." When Gen. Kevin Kiley, the Army surgeon general, gave an answer Beverly Young didn't like, she made an obscene gesture. (She later said she was drying out a fake fingernail.)

Most of the complaints about Walter Reed have focused on poor conditions in its outpatient facilities, but the cases cited by Young involved inpatient treatment. He said the cases were troubling to him, but he noted that the hospital had a good reputation for inpatient care.

The room fell silent as he recounted the stories of three patients:

- One soldier was sitting in his bed in a pool of urine when Beverly Young discovered him. The congressman said hospital employees did little to help and replied, "This is war. We have a lot of casualties. We don't have enough sheets and blankets to go around."

- Staff Sgt. William Latham, who had a severe head injury, urgently needed brain surgery, Rep. Young said, but it was delayed because of malfunctioning equipment. He and Beverly tried to arrange to have Latham taken to a nearby Navy hospital, but Army doctors did not want to move him. A respiratory therapist then performed a procedure on Latham that Young said may not have been proper because he had a brain aneurysm. Latham subsequently died, although it's not known if the respiratory therapy or the surgical delay were factors.

- Cpl. Joshua Dunlop, who had a serious head injury, fell out of his bed because hospital workers failed to properly secure him. Young said he told hospital officials that Dunlop should be secured, but he fell again. Young complained again, this time to Kiley, but Dunlop fell a third time.

Kiley did not respond in detail to Young's examples, but he called them "totally unacceptable."

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 22:12:37]


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