May 4, 2007
Pg. 7 Senior Commander Placed on Leave; 2 Are Disciplined
By Steve Vogel and Dana Priest, Washington Post Staff Writers
A senior commander at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was placed on administrative leave yesterday after an internal investigation into leadership at the facility, officials connected to the hospital said.
Col. Virgil T. Deal, who as the health-care system's commander oversaw much of the hospital's operations, has been removed from his position effective immediately, Walter Reed's commander, Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, told senior staff members yesterday.
The action was taken on the basis of an internal investigation of command responsibility, according to a Walter Reed employee who has been briefed on the matter.
In addition, unspecified administrative actions are being taken against Col. Ronald Hamilton, the medical center brigade commander, and Col. Peter Garibaldi, Walter Reed's garrison commander, officials said.
Responding to a query, the Army said yesterday evening that it had recently completed "a thorough investigation into command and control" of outpatient soldiers and into oversight for facilities, maintenance and repair.
"As a result of the investigation, Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commander of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, is taking appropriate actions," the statement said. "These actions are pending and it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics further at this time."
The actions surprised staffers at Walter Reed, where the atmosphere had settled after weeks of turmoil over the disclosure of problems in the long-term care of injured soldiers.
Deal is a popular figure at the hospital, regarded by patients and the staff as a hard worker. He was scheduled to be rotated shortly to a new assignment in Iraq, and staff members had been informed this week that a change-of-command ceremony for the colonel would be held later this month.
Schoomaker decided to remove Deal with "great reluctance," a hospital official said. Schoomaker took command of the hospital in March after the Army relieved his predecessor, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman.
Hamilton oversees medical personnel assigned to Walter Reed. An investigation by the Pentagon's Independent Review Group concluded that the staff is undermanned and lacks adequate funding.
Garibaldi oversees facilities at Walter Reed, where a building used to house long-term patients was found to have mold and leaks. Togo D. West, co-chair of the group, said there had been a "virtually incomprehensible" failure to maintain facilities at Walter Reed.
Garibaldi warned Weightman in September that "patient care services are at risk of mission failure" because of staff shortages.