July 12, 2007
Augusta, GA---Augusta can expand its role in wounded warrior care but the commanding general of Eisenhower Army Medical Center says the community needs to look long-term and not for short term fixes.
Brigadier General Donald Bradshaw says after the scandal broke about bad conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, between 8 to 10 wounded troops from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were coming to Augusta for care, but now we are back down to 3 to 7 a week.
BG Bradshaw says the formula for growing Augusta's role in wounded warrior care is not just expanding the Uptown VA's Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit, but thinking even bigger-picture. He says "A lot of it sounds real simple: we'll just bring folks here and plug them into the Active Duty Rehab (at the Uptown VA)....but if we're going to do it right, it's not just taking care of the 2 weeks they're in-patients, it's during long- term rehab, making sure their emotional, physical, spiritual, mental is all supported."
He added "We may have the greatest orthopedic surgeon in the world, but if we can't supply the physical therapy and occupational therapy, the emotional support, the chaplains, the mental health, etcetera, then we're really not doing that soldier any good."
BG Bradshaw also pointed out it's not just the injured service member they're treating, but also their family members as well. "We'll deal with not just the broken leg, but with the emotional trauma of the blast that caused the broken leg. We'll deal with the issues of the family now coming to visit the injured soldier and dealing with that, the changes they may see in that soldier," he says. He adds, "My vision is not just wounded warrior care, but I think Augusta has the capacity to provide better care for all our military, active duty, reserves, guard, family, retirees and their families."
One of the keys, he says, is getting the medical community together. "That's very hard," he says, "because it's competitive. There's some mutual support so we do transfer patients back and forth based on capabilities and capacities, but it's not quite as simple as everyone getting together and singing Kumbaya and life's good. There's a very complex billing process, very long training times. To train a neurosurgeon, a graduate from college isn't fully trained for 12 years. That's a long time. Behavioral health, you don't want a psychiatrist who's not finished with med school, not finished their residency and not trained, and that's a 3-5 year process."
BG Bradshaw also points out as part of the federal system, he and others like him can provide information and work with the community, but that it is going to be the civilian community who has to take the lead.
In order for Augusta to expand wounded warrior care, the community has to figure out how to do it, how to fund it, and determine capacities and capabilities of where the community wants to focus, be it primary care, musculoskeletal, or behavioral or mental health. But he adds, "Augusta is a great place to live and to work, and there's phenomenal medical resources here."