Army reserve medics spread too thin in war zones

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The long-term involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq has stressed the military’s medical professionals, causing gaps in medical coverage and uncertainty about the ability to provide non-emergency medical care.

In an attempt to reach medical emergencies faster, Army commanders split medical units to reach more geographic areas. Officials expressed concern because the medical teams were staffed to function as a single unit, not two separate ones.

Medical personnel, mostly from the Army Reserves, were in increasingly short supply due to restrictions on the length and frequency of deployments. This is coupled with other disadvantages: military medical personnel usually receive lower pay than those in the private sector, the high stress, and demands of deployment. Medical personnel in a war zone bear an unusual burden, since they are usually the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Medical brigades face difficult decisions when a medical professional takes leave or is evacuated. It can deploy a medical professional who was not originally scheduled to do so, or temporarily relocate personnel from another unit. Commanders describe this situation as “not an ideal solution and can present risk to medical operations in theater, especially when conducted on a recurring basis,” according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are requiring deployment of more civilians, increasing pressure on medical personnel providing both emergency care on the battlefield and routine care in the theater.

The Center reported earlier on problems with poorly trained and ill-equipped reservists .

FAST FACT: If a severely wounded soldier does not receive advanced medical care within 60 minutes, he or she only has a 10 percent chance of survival.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

MISC.

  •  The federal government owns more than 900,000 buildings and structures worth billions, presenting a management challenge when the buildings are no longer need. Last year, 24 agencies reported 45,190 underused buildings that cost $1.66 billion to operate annually. (GAO)
  •  E-Verify, the internet-based employment verification program touted as an illegal immigration fix, may produce incorrect employment statuses. About 2.6 percent of people processed last year received unresolved statuses, but 0.3 percent of people who contested the reading were found to be eligible to work. Some employees were not aware that they could contest a reading. (GAO)

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