July 3, 2008

New Unit at Portsmouth Medical Center Will House Sailors, Marines

By Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jul. 3--PORTSMOUTH -- A 13-bed unit soon to be created at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center will allow injured sailors and Marines to live near their doctors and therapists while recovering.

Called The Patriots' Inn, the unit will be on the seventh floor of the old hospital building. The 18,500-square-foot unit will include office space for Navy liaisons, disability counselors and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, those offices were scattered throughout the medical campus.

It will cost $3.3 million and is expected to open next June.

Jacky Fisher, a spokeswoman for the medical center, said the living quarters will be more like hotel accommodations than hospital rooms. Each room will be private and have a queen-size bed.

The unit isn't just for troops who suffer wounds in Iraq or Afghanistan. It will also serve sailors recovering from noncombat injuries, as well as military members who need temporary housing before they are processed out of service for their injuries.

Currently, active-duty military members from outside the area who receive long-term care at the center are assigned rooms in nearby barracks -- if they are able to walk. If they require more care, they stay in the hospital.

Portsmouth Naval Medical Center is one of the Navy's three flagship hospitals, along with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego. But it has treated the fewest war veterans. West Coast Marines tend to be cared for in San Diego; injured Marines from the East Coast primarily recover at Bethesda.

Fisher said the project isn't a sign that more combat-wounded troops are heading to Portsmouth. But it will put the medical center in a better position to handle those patients if the Navy's surgeon general assigns them here, she said.

The project is part of the last phase of converting the old hospital into office and administrative space. It served as the main hospital from 1959 to 1999, when a new building opened.

Kate Wiltrout, (757) 446-2629, [email protected]


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