Army investigating attainable ‘dysfunction’ at Texas medical middle after colonel resigns

An Air Power colonel sounded the alarm on what he known as widespread “Machiavellian maneuvering and counterproductive forms” as he resigned from command at Brooke Army Medical Middle in Texas — the navy’s largest well being care hub.

The hospital system at Joint Base San Antonio has a deeply ingrained poisonous tradition of “cronyism and sycophancy” that’s “an affront to beliefs of navy management,” Col. Ken Bode, the outgoing commander of the 959th Medical Operations Squadron, wrote in a July 19 resignation letter obtained by Air Power Instances.

Bode, an orthopedic backbone surgeon, mentioned he repeatedly raised issues to his chain of command however that his superiors downplayed or ignored the issues. So he tried to make a degree by quitting Tuesday, his remaining day on the job earlier than his substitute took over Wednesday.

“Right this moment I’m left with this final alternative to make a distinction,” he mentioned. “If this surroundings continues, we’ll doubtless see one other Walter Reed Army Medical Middle 2007 scandal/incident.”

His three-page grievance has spurred a joint investigation by the Army and Air Power’s inspector common and workers choose advocate workplaces into the power’s processes, command relationships and previous investigations.

“I’m dedicated to a swift and complete evaluation of efficiency in line with the core values, roles/obligations and requirements within the methods they need to allow optimum mission execution,” Air Training and Coaching Command boss Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson mentioned in a press release emailed to Air Power Instances Friday.

The Army didn’t reply to a request for remark. Bode declined to be interviewed.

Brooke Army Medical Middle is a joint Army-Air Power group with greater than 240,000 beneficiaries within the San Antonio area. About 4,000 sufferers go to the its campus and 6 outpatient clinics every day.

The 959th Medical Group employs 1,540 airmen who work alongside greater than 6,000 Army personnel on the 425-bed facility. It’s the navy’s solely Stage 1 trauma middle that provides surgical procedure across the clock in addition to a variety of specialty care, and is a key medical coaching website for troopers, airmen and international troops.

Spurred by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure course of, the Army and Air Power took on shared obligations on the freshly renovated Brooke Army Medical Middle a decade in the past.

Service cultures clashed and egos dominated, inflicting friction on issues giant and small, in line with Bode, airmen on social media and one retired grasp sergeant who spoke to Air Power Instances.

The Army has eschewed cooperation and customary sense at each flip, beginning with its refusal to undertake a joint identify like “Brooke Army Medical Middle” as a substitute, Bode wrote in his resignation letter.

“The commanders and senior enlisted leaders of the Air Power part inside BAMC are excluded from elementary decision-making processes and never co-located, even after a 10-year presence on this group,” Bode wrote.

The Army made it clear that the airmen have been visitors within the constructing, a retired grasp sergeant who left Brooke Army Medical Middle in 2015, three years after the 959th Medical Group stood up on the joint base, informed Air Power Instances.

Airmen have been held to Army guidelines that unnecessarily difficult their jobs and slowed medical procedures, the previous respiratory specialist mentioned Thursday.

For instance, the Army follows state legal guidelines that require troops to carry sure licenses to manage medicine. The Air Power holds itself to much less prescriptive federal guidelines that qualify extra airmen to deal with drugs with out particular licenses, the retired grasp sergeant mentioned.

That implies that in sure circumstances, airmen have to search out troopers who’re licensed to manage a specific remedy as a substitute of doing it themselves. In different conditions, airmen are informed they need to undergo troopers to talk to physicians as a substitute of contacting the docs immediately, the previous senior noncommissioned officer mentioned.

One other gripe offers with how the services are laid out. A easy urinalysis takes an hour as a result of the outcomes are processed six miles down the street from the working room, relatively than on one other ground, the retired airman informed Air Power Instances.

“Airmen are being informed, ‘No, you may’t depart and go discuss to a primary sergeant. No, you may’t depart to speak to your commander,’” as a result of they aren’t in the identical constructing, the retired airman mentioned.

The previous senior NCO recalled situations when Army officers allegedly uncared for to inform airmen of a rape within the locker room; no less than one occasion when an airman confronted false allegations of sexual assault as retaliation for making an attempt to make adjustments; and when airmen have been denied depart for no less than a yr throughout expertise improve coaching, then once more if their work didn’t meet Army requirements relatively than the Air Power’s.

“Each single day, I had any person who was crying,” the retired senior NCO informed Air Power Instances. “The variety of airmen and NCOs and even a few of our … officers that have been having suicidal ideations — I’ve had six fight excursions. I haven’t seen that a lot suicide [on deployment] as I noticed in a nine-month time frame at BAMC.”

These are systemic points which have persevered for years, airmen mentioned. Earlier conversations, formal complaints and different resignations haven’t moved the needle.

“In every occasion, leaders all through the chain of command have been conscious and did nothing to cease unlawful, immoral or unethical actions, which was their duty,” Bode wrote. “The construction and tradition of JBSA/BAMC additionally helped undercut leaders’ skill to deal with the problems, which stays a part of the issue.”

Bode mentioned he filed a grievance to the 59th Medical Wing commander that he hoped would stem rampant harassment, defamation and abuse of authority.

An investigation substantiated 5 of Bode’s 9 claims, he mentioned, however the wing commander “dismissed the IO’s findings and substituted findings of her personal that unsubstantiated all points, unilaterally declaring that each one was effectively.”

The navy didn’t reply questions on a number of formal investigations talked about in Bode’s letter.

The retired grasp sergeant argues that the Army and Air Power officers in cost are extra involved about self-preservation and looking out good at promotion time than making a wholesome work surroundings for the troops below them.

Primary adjustments would go a good distance towards fixing tradition conflict, the retired airman mentioned ― like clearly defining who’s allowed to do sure duties, and choose a single customary for coaching and efficiency.

Appoint liaisons to assist the providers perceive one another’s norms, from efficiency opinions to work schedules, the airman added. And, convey Air Power management below the identical roof as their subordinates.

The retired senior NCO has no qualms concerning the high quality of care at Brooke Army Medical Middle, noting that issues run extra easily within the trauma middle and intensive care unit.

Bode added, “Inside this command, many members have and proceed to supply excellent service regardless of the unforgivable circumstances. I can not sufficiently categorical my gratitude for his or her dedication and my alternative to steer them.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned others to not take management positions on the beleaguered middle.

Airmen who imagine they’ll reform Brooke Army Medical Middle from the within ought to “ask if their time and medical expertise could be higher spent in scientific work than wasted in command time below a system that forecloses accountability and buoys toxicity,” Bode wrote.

“We’d like dedicated, engaged commanders — that drove me to take command,” he mentioned. “The systemic flaws I encountered, and the unwillingness of these with the ability to make mandatory enhancements, are what drive me now to resign.”

Rachel Cohen joined Air Power Instances as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Power Journal, Inside Protection, Inside Well being Coverage, the Frederick News-Submit (Md.), the Washington Submit, and others.