The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Walter Reed Hospital:
Troops with Unheated Showers

Mar 14, 2022

In mid-February the Navy suddenly rented hotel rooms for 350 Navy and Army medical personnel stationed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. They work in the hospital known as the “flagship of military medicine” and “the world’s largest joint military medical center,” treating wounded and sick troops and top-level civilians including presidents. Bethesda is a rich suburb but these junior-grade troops live on base in one- and two-bedroom barracks where there has been no hot water for seven years. They had been filing repair orders, and for seven years base officials routinely ignored their requests. Troops also complained about air conditioners broken for three months of summer heat, broken fridges, and broken door locks in the mixed-sex barracks.

Finally at a townhall with base leadership on February 3 the low-ranking troops exploded. “I already work super-long hours in a high-demand clinic with a huge patient volume. We’ve been short-staffed for a long time and there’s no telework for us,” one exclaimed. Another protested, “They call Walter Reed the ‘corpsman (medic) killer.’ You come home after 10 to 12 hours and you can’t take a shower after working in a hospital with constant germs.” Another: “I’m a military kid and I lived in base housing, but this is just ridiculous.”

Broken Since 2014

This neglect is happening in a barracks called Sanctuary Hall, which the Navy paid 63 million dollars to build in 2014. Another older barracks called Comfort Hall was “completely renovated”—but had cold water flowing into hot water pipes. And this “new” Walter Reed in Maryland replaced the notorious old medical center in D.C. The military paid nearly three billion dollars for the move to Maryland. But now Maryland politicians say Walter Reed’s fire house has untreated mold, asbestos, roof leaks, and electrical problems. A base spokesman tried to blame “limited resources and budgetary constraints” as if the Navy doesn’t get well over 160 billion tax dollars per year!

A Mirror of Society

The treatment of working military personnel is a mirror of the society it is sworn to defend, a capitalist society that spends as little as possible on essential workers.