Walter Reed open, but expect some changes

WASHINGTON – The military is on duty during the government shutdown and so are local military hospitals — but it’s not business as usual.

The sequester already made cuts in some services at the local military medical facilities because of civilian furloughs. Longer waits for appointments and curtailed weekend pharmacy hours could get worse if the shutdown drags on.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is preparing for the struggle that may come with the furloughs.

“The recent furlough and the potential lapse in appropriations have brought a significant amount of uncertainty into the lives of you, our beneficiaries, who deserve and receive quality health care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the nation’s hospital,” a news release reads.

“Please know, Walter Reed Bethesda remains committed to carrying out our mission of providing safe, quality health care; therefore, if there is a lapse in appropriations and the government is shut down, the medical center will remain open and future appointments will remain available.”

During the last shutdown in 1995, military hospitals went as far as canceling surgeries because civilian workers were sent home. This time, military families are urged to call before they head in. But emergency personnel are considered essential — so the emergency room should be open.

“Our goal is to minimize any disruption to you,” Walter Reed’s new release says. “I do not like this. None of us do, but it is a reality which we must, as always, face together.”

And VA hospitals should do better than others during the shutdown because they’re funded for two years instead of one.

WTOP’s Paula Wolfson contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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