Army Surgeon General lauds realism in training


The Unites States Army surgeon general and commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command visited the National Training Center, March 2-3, to assess the readiness of the hospital here and get a better feel for the medical support provided Soldiers, families and retirees making up the Fort Irwin community.

Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho’s visit also provided her insight into the training medical professionals receive and the challenges facing them – not only in the training environment during rotations – but in the execution of their daily mission.

“My experience over the last two days gives me a distinct appreciation for all the efforts going on at Weed (Army Community Hospital) to support Fort Irwin and initiatives to improve the hospital’s performance,” Horoho said. “I will take those back to U.S. Army Medical Command for staff to better research and support. This assessment included a great dialogue with the Weed ACH command team on future initiatives and its progress with Army medicine’s incentive-based funding model.”

Horoho directly engaged Irwin’s medical professionals at a town hall meeting for feedback regarding the challenges they face to meet mission requirements.

“The most unique aspect of practicing medicine at Fort Irwin is the geographic isolation with a challenging mission to provide medical support to NTC rotations,” she said. “The real challenge is balancing a difficult mission in an isolated location with the need to gain experience as the majority of primary care providers at Weed are in their first assignment out of training. The Army medicine talent management efforts need to balance both new and experienced providers being assigned to Fort Irwin based on these unique challenges to support NTC in an isolated location.

“It should be no surprise, especially to those that train our formations for combat, that combat casualty care on the battlefield is Army medicine’s number one priority,” she continued. “While not unique to Fort Irwin, maintaining clinical currency for select low density, specialized skill sets can prove quite a challenge because it is so dependent on the case mix, complexity of both medical and surgical cases, and volume of patients seen at each of our hospitals and clinics.”

The Future: Net Zero

“I am very excited about the new hospital construction project currently underway,” she said. “The new hospital will be the first U.S. healthcare facility that is ‘carbon neutral’ with enough solar power to supply all the new facility power needs and even provide additional power to the Fort Irwin installation. Most importantly, the new hospital will improve the delivery of health and healthcare with state of the art capabilities in primary, specialty and surgical care, as well as inpatient and ancillary services all in support of the Soldiers, families and retirees of Fort Irwin community.

“It’s not being built as a financial investment – it will take many years to gain a financial return on investment – but the new hospital is a statement on the future of the National Training Center and better serving the patrons of the Fort Irwin community that are vital to sustain the strength of the Army and Army medicine.”

On short- and long-term goals

“A great primary short-term goal of Weed ACH’s command team is to foster an environment in which patients and staff are treated like family,” she offered. “I often use the analogy that you don’t have to like everyone in your family, but you do have to treat them right because they are family.

“A long-term goal of nearly every healthcare facility to include Weed ACH is working very hard at creating close relationships with outside resources,” she continued. “Weed ACH frequently works with the local TRICARE contractor and the Veteran’s Health Administration. Weed ACH maintains a great relationship with the Barstow community hospital – the closest facility approximately 40 miles away. Yet, the Weed ACH command team wants to see an even more cooperative relationship with other sources that serve the Fort Irwin community.”

She said goals for the members of the team here are consistent with the mission of Army medicine – that of providing a high quality, safe and consistent patient experience.

“I see current efforts that Weed ACH is doing now to raise the level of medical support to Fort Irwin and NTC to even greater heights,” she emphasized. “I applaud those efforts to continue to improve medical training at NTC and medical support to Fort Irwin community.”