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Today's Topics:

   1. Medical evacuations in Iraq war hit 18,000 (Hassan)


Message: 1
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2004 02:59:52 -0800 (PST)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: Medical evacuations in Iraq war hit 18,000
To: CASI newsclippings <>,
  IAC discussion <>

Medical evacuations in Iraq war hit 18,000

By Mark Benjamin
United Press International
Published 3/31/2004 3:04 PM

WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- In the first year of war
in Iraq, the military has made 18,004 medical
evacuations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the
Pentagon's top health official told Congress Tuesday.

The new data, through March 13, is nearly two-thirds
higher than the 11,200 evacuations through Feb. 5
cited just last month to Congress by the same
official, William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant
secretary of defense for health affairs.

In both cases, Winkenwerder described the evacuations
as "total evacuations out of theater," and he said
both times that the majority of evacuations
represented routine medical treatment and not
life-threatening injuries.

"As of March 13, 2004, data from the Transportation
Command shows 18,004 total evacuations out of
theater," Winkenwerder said Tuesday.

"As of February 5, 2004, data from the Transportation
Command shows 11,200 total evacuations out of
theater," he told a separate House panel Feb. 25.

A spokesman for Winkenwerder, James Turner, said the
latest figure represents multiple evacuations for
single patients -- including moving some soldiers back
into theater. He said the 18,004 evacuations was for
11,700 patients.

Turner did not return e-mails or phone calls Tuesday
and Wednesday asking for elaboration.

Winkenwerder appeared Tuesday before a House
Government Reform panel with four Army Reserve and
National Guard soldiers. Those soldiers offered a
litany of complaints about poor health care for
reserve and guard troops -- problems they said have
been widespread during the war on terror, particularly
on return to the United States.

Soldiers described being deployed to war with serious
medical conditions and then getting poor and erratic
health care upon return -- including months-long waits
for doctors, surgeries or treatments. United Press
International first reported that problem last

Two soldiers said better access to mental health
services might have prevented two suicide attempts at
two separate bases, and asserted that soldiers are
sometimes prescribed powerful drugs by military health
professionals in place of medical care. The soldiers
also described widespread concern about being put out
of the military without fair compensation for wounds
and illnesses they received during service.

"Is it a question of incompetent medical care or a
question of a well-organized government system that
achieves just what it is supposed to achieve?" Retired
Army Reserve First Sgt. Gerry Mosley, who served in
Iraq, asked the panel.

"Use people, strip them of all human dignity,
disrespect them, wear them down, and be pleased when
soldiers no longer have the physical and mental
capacities to continue to fight to have the same
rights and respect as those American citizens for whom
we have fought to preserve those entitlements."

Mosley said that after returning from Iraq last
summer, he has had to drive 195 miles each way at his
own expense to see a specialist. He said the Army put
him out of service without compensating him for a neck
injury or vertigo apparently triggered from mortar
explosions. He can no longer work his civilian job.
Since being put out of the Army, he has been diagnosed
with Parkinson's Disease.

The wives of two soldiers also testified. Laura
Ramsey, wife of Florida Army National Guard Spc. John
A. Ramsey, said through tears that she did not want
her husband to serve in the guard anymore, after
fighting for nine months to get surgery on his
shoulders that were injured in Iraq. "Not after the
nine months of hell that we have been through," Ramsey

Pentagon health officials described a series of steps
they are taking to better screen soldiers for health
problems before and after deploying for combat. They
also have taken steps to ease the strain at major
bases -- including a new policy to send some soldiers
back home for treatment near their families after 25
days if they are unfit for duty after showing up for

While they wait, the Pentagon has set new standards to
help ensure that living conditions are appropriate for
sick, injured or ill troops.

Pentagon health officials mostly have emphasized swift
and professional care for the acutely wounded by
combat in Iraq.

"During Operation Iraqi Freedom, we used far-forward
surgical and medical teams and technologies to care
for casualties within minutes of injury," Winkenwerder
told Congress last month. "Based on the current
analysis, 98 percent of those wounded who, in fact,
reached medical treatment survived their injuries."

But Pentagon data and interviews with soldiers at six
bases in the United States and Europe show combat
wounds represent a minority of casualties during
wartime. The Pentagon "Operation Iraqi Freedom U.S.
Casualty Update" on Tuesday listed a total of 2,998
soldiers wounded in action, in comparison to the
18,004 medical evacuations described by Winkenwerder.

The Pentagon defines a casualty as "any person who is
lost to the organization by having been declared dead,
duty status-whereabouts unknown, missing, ill, or

More mundane wartime injures seem more prevalent: back
and neck injuries, torn knees and elbows, heart and
lung problems and mental problems like post-traumatic
stress disorder that may not be diagnosed for months
after returning from combat.

Soldiers say acute care for the wounded at Landstuhl
Regional Medical Center in Germany and at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is excellent.
But ill and injured troops -- particularly National
Guard and Army Reserve soldiers -- sprinkled across
the United States describe widespread concern for
medical care and benefits described by the panel
Tuesday. Some are in "medical hold" at U.S. bases
while they wait for treatment.

"I have spoken probably with hundreds of soldiers
since I was placed in med hold," Spc. Timothi M.
McMichael told the panel Tuesday. He is on medical
hold at Fort Knox, Ky. "I can only say that the
uniform consensus is one of frustration,
disappointment and anger. I have had soldiers with 15,
20, even 25 years in the military tell me they are
disgusted," McMichael said. "The Army cannot afford to
lose the number of senior non-commissioned officers it
is losing every day."

In addition to the new policies, Winkenwerder said the
Pentagon is racing to do better for these troops, as
well as those wounded in combat. "I believe we are
doing better. I really do," he told Congress Tuesday.
"We understand. We appreciate that there are some
issues that need to be addressed. We are aggressively
addressing them."

Copyright =A9 2001-2004 United Press International

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