Bush apologizes for Walter Reed conditions
President Bush apologized for the poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center during a visit to the hospital six weeks after revelations of the facility's dilapidated state, according to an AP report.
"The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures," Bush is quoted as telling the hospital's patients and staff. "The system failed you and it failed our troops and we're going to fix it."
Bush continued, "It is not right to have someone volunteer to wear the uniform and not get the best possible care. I apologize for what they went through and we're going to fix the problem."
Some were critical of Bush's visit and handling of the scandal. "I'm convinced he would honor them more if he would refrain from using soldiers as props in political theater," said Ret. Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton. "I would be very happy to see him do the Walter Reed visit more like the commander and secondarily as an inspector general, rather than as a politician."
Excerpts from the AP article follow...
Bobby Muller, president of Veterans for America, said Bush wasn't seeing areas of the hospital most in need of change. He cited Ward 54, where soldiers are suffering from acute mental health conditions, and outpatient holding facilities where soldiers see long waits to get processed out of the Army.
"Walter Reed is not a photo-op," Muller said. "Walter Reed is still broken. The DOD health care system is still broken. ... Our troops need their commander in chief to start working harder for them."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called it "an unfortunate characterization" to say Bush was using Walter Reed as merely a picture-taking opportunity. She said it took some time to clear enough room on the president's schedule to spend an afternoon with patients and staff at Walter Reed.
"There is no more personal moment that he has, and it's one of the memories that I cherish the most of working for the president, because you see his gratitude, and they share hugs, and they share laughter, they share tears," she said.
Perino also said that when the situation at Walter Reed first came to light, "the president immediately took action."
LINK TO FULL AP ARTICLE