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Capital-area Medical Centers Set for Reorganization

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess - Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2010 - With a reorganization of units overseeing military medicine in the national capital area under way, interim steps are in place to maintain good care and emergency preparedness during the transition.

As part of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission action announced in 2007, Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., are being integrated into a single medical hub at Bethesda.

Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical Command was established to take the lead in this consolidation and realignment. To ensure that quality health care continues during and after the migration, task force officials developed the "Be Ready Now" program.

"We provide plans and response to any type of incident that would happen either within the national capital region or in support of U.S. Northern Command across the country," Bruce Thompson, deputy chief of the task force's plans division, said in an April 16 "DoD Live" podcast of the "Dot Mil Docs" program.

"It can be anything from a hurricane, or most recently, we've been involved in the pandemic influenza planning, or it could be a terrorist attack that could occur," Thompson said.

The task force also is getting ready to work with other agencies at a moment's notice. "Right now, there's a project to develop a catastrophic incident plan, which was brought up due to the earthquake down in Haiti," he added. "If, at some point, an event happens here, we need to be prepared for it."

In the event of a domestic health emergency or epidemic, for example, the task force would assist the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Resources, Thompson said.

The task force also participates in annual exercises such as Capital Shield, which provides an opportunity to practice responding to emergencies with local fire departments.

"We have been actively participating with other agencies to prevent 'stove-piping' plan development, where planning involves only a single agency, so we can look at how they respond, and then we can respond jointly in any type of incident," Thompson said.

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