Army boots head of one of its hospitals


Raleigh, NC (CBS) - The Army relieved the commander of one of its hospitals of his duties and suspended three of his top aides Tuesday.

The Pentagon said in a statement obtained by CBS affiliate WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C. that, "Senior Army Medical leaders have lost trust and confidence in the Commander at the Womack Army Medical Center (WAMC), Fort Bragg, North Carolina to address the changes needed to maintain a high level of patient care," adding that investigations were continuing.

The statement said Col. Ronald Stephens was assuming command of WAMC effective Wednesday.

The New York Times, which first reported the development, identified the ousted commander as Col. Steven J. Brewster.

The newspaper said the shuffle comes "after two patients in their 20s unexpectedly died in the past 10 days, shortly after they sought treatment at the hospital's emergency room."

The Times, which calls Womack one of the Army's busiest hospitals, quotes defense officials as saying, "The changes at Womack ... were due both to the patient deaths and to problems with surgical-infection control identified in March by the Joint Commission, an independent body that accredits hospitals."

The shakeup came as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a 90-day review of the military health care system, spurred by the investigation into alleged treatment delays and secret waiting lists at Veteran Affairs facilities around the country.

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says Hagel asked Jonathan Woodson, the assistant defense secretary for health affairs, to lead the review. It will assess the quality of the health care at military treatment facilities as well as the care the department buys from civilian providers.

The system provides care for more than 9.6 million active duty personnel, retirees and eligible family members.

Hagel was to meet with senior Pentagon leaders Wednesday to discuss the review.

Kirby says Hagel expects to receive recommendations on how to improve the system once the review is complete.

The Times cites defense officials as saying the review ordered by Hagel was "decided upon last week and was unrelated to the situation at Womack."

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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