Medical Improvements at Fort Stewart - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/31/03

Medical Improvements at Fort Stewart

Last week, Fort Stewart made news when National Guard soldiers criticized their barracks and medical treatment. Now the post says it's made changes. Medical commanders are hoping a borrowed building and borrowed doctors will make things better.

SSgt. Charles Keyes hurt his knee on a run in April, about a month after he mobilized to Fort Stewart. He's been in the National Guard for 25 years. "I'm here for a dictation," he said. "They're going to determine if I can continue my career or not."

The process could get faster. Medical commanders have a new building and new personnel to treat more than 600 Guard soldiers who's can't deploy for health reasons. "We're definitely making efforts to expedite the mobilization and demobilization of soldiers with health needs," said hospital commander Col. Joe Barthel.

The building which was supposed to be used for preventive health has been requisitioned to treat Guard soldiers. Fort Stewart has sent dozens of its Guard patients to Fort Gordon. Even more are moving to Hunter Army Airfield. They've also brought in more doctors and case managers to speed up treatment.

Nearly 100 who remain will get new housing. "Those are more like hotel accommodations and those soldiers will be fitted in two-man rooms," said garrison commander Col. John Kidd.

The post got national criticism last week after complaints by Guard soldiers of treatment delays and second-class housing. Leaders say the remedies have been in the works for months. Col. Kidd says Fort Stewart had to wait for some National Guard units to leave the post before they could use their quarters to house those on medical hold.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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