- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

A state-of-the-art hospital is part of $4.5 billion worth of projects associated with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program at Fort Belvoir.

Travis Edwards, BRAC outreach branch chief, outlined the goals of the program to about 60 community members at a recent meeting at Woodlawn Elementary School in Alexandria. He said the efforts at Fort Belvoir are designed to get Defense Department employees out of expensive leased space and into a more secure, consolidated structure.

Col. Chuck Callahan, commanding officer of the hospital, described the design and progress for a new facility to replace the 52-year old DeWitt Community Hospital. He conducted an informal poll of the crowd that showed about half of the people who had been patients at DeWitt were referred to either Bethesda Naval Hospital or Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment that could not be completed at Dewitt.

The new hospital will be the first of its kind in the Defense Department. It is inspired by the layout of Woodlawn Plantation and Mount Vernon and incorporates features of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The “swoop” roofs are inspired by the wings of the American eagles nesting near Fort Belvoir.

Col. Callahan said the facility will be governed by the “evidence-based design” concept. Between the hospital wings will be gardens, because studies indicate that patients who see a garden rather than a blank wall heal faster and require less anesthetic. The hospital will be situated to take maximum advantage of natural sunlight, because studies have shown that this accelerates patient recovery and reduces nursing errors made in the dark. Patient movement has been examined to ensure that housekeeping and administrative traffic will be kept separate from the flow of patients. Architects analyzed procedures of airlines and Disneyland to determine how to move people efficiently and direct them with appropriate signs.

Dr. Richard Repetta described “smart suite” technology that is designed to speed healing and reduce mistakes. Upon entering a patient’s room, the medical staff will have a conveniently located sink to wash hands to reduce infection. The doctors will use their badges to activate flat-screen monitors to identify them and to allow them to see the results of any recent tests, medications administered and other relevant patient information.

Foldout couches will accommodate family members. Studies show the presence of family members helps speed recovery.

Col. Mark Moffat, deputy commander of BRAC operations at Fort Belvoir, said the staff is still working on finding the best way to direct people to parking near the clinic they are visiting. He plans to consider a system like the one at Washington Dulles International Airport that identifies the number of parking spaces available on each level.

Lt. Col. Eric Harter said the $4.5 billion in construction projects will continue into 2011. These include a $1.8 billion campus-style facility for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and various road projects.

More information is available at www.belvoirnewvision.com.

Lt. Col. Bill Card is retired from the Marine Corps. He and his wife live in Dumfries, Va.

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