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DOD sending team to Madigan for audit on military health care

The Defense Department is putting Madigan Army Medical Center under the microscope as part of a nationwide review of military hospitals commissioned in the wake of complaints about delays in care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The medical center south of Tacoma was one of seven hospitals selected from around the country and Europe to give the Pentagon a diverse picture of health care based on geography, scale and branch of the military. They were not selected because of any suspected problems.

The group includes the Army hospital at Georgia’s Fort Stewart, Naval Hospital San Diego and the Air Force Academy Clinic in Colorado.

“In general, they were deemed to be seven good medical facilities for us to look at,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for the review late last month as complaints mounted about a backlog in care at VA hospitals around the country.

His memo announcing the review directs auditors to focus on access to care, safety and quality as they review the military medical network.

A team of 20 specialists from the Pentagon plans to visit Madigan Monday for the review. The group is scheduled to meet with Madigan Commander Col. Ramona Fiorey in the morning before spending the rest of the day meeting with staff and patients.

The team, led by a one-star general, also will hold two town hall sessions. One is for employees; the other is for patients. Neither is open to the press.

In 2012, Madigan was at the center of a nationwide Army audit of behavioral health resources. It followed complaints from some Madigan patients about a team of forensic psychiatrists who sometimes changed mental health diagnoses for reasons that patients could not understand.

The behavioral health audit led to Armywide reforms and the creation of new “resiliency” programs that aim to help families cope with the stresses of military life.

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