Army Ousts Head Of Walter Reed Hospital

George Weightman Walter Reed Army Hospital
The Army said Thursday that the two-star general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been relieved of command following disclosures about inadequate treatment of wounded soldiers.

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who was commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command as well as Walter Reed hospital, was relieved of command by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

The Army fired Weightman at the urging of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who met Thursday with a panel formed to investigate conditions at Walter Reed, reports CBS News correspondent Dave Martin.

"I don't have very much patience with people who don't step up to the plate in terms of addressing problems that are under their responsibility," Gates said.

Emerging from a closed-door briefing with Gates, Sen. Jack Reed predicted it won't end with Weightman.

As the commander of Walter Reed, Weightman was the most obvious head to roll for conditions everybody agrees are unacceptable, reports Martin. But he is almost certainly not the only one to blame. He took command of Walter Reed in August of last year, long after much of the bureaucratic red tape that bedevils wounded soldiers and their families had become standard operating procedure.

When they first arrive at Walter Reed, wounded soldiers receive world-class medical care, but that is only the first step on a long road to recovery, adds Martin. After their wounds have been stabilized and they are out of immediate danger, they become outpatients, living in apartments provided by the Army or renting their own. That's where they fall into limbo — or at the very least into the life of a low-ranking soldier coping with the intricacies and indifference of the Army's bureaucracy.

At any given time, there are 55 soldiers being treated for their wounds in the hospital as well as 600 outpatients undergoing therapy or waiting for further surgery. The system clearly is not capable of handling that many outpatients and that is the system Weightman inherited when he took over.

Responding to reports of deplorable conditions at Walter Reed, Illinois Sen. Barak Obama is introducing a bill to set higher standards, require outside inspection of Army hospitals, and let wounded vets cut through the nightmare of paperwork to get needed services, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss.

"The administration has not thought this through," said Obama. "They underestimated the costs and they continue to do so."