From Chuck Roberts of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs at Army.mil.
RHINE ORDNANCE BARRACKS, Germany (Oct. 27, 2014) -- The last time ground was broken for a major military medical center in Europe was in 1951, when Germany and other nations were still recovering from the devastation of World War II.
About 63 years later, and eight miles away, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., the commanding general for U.S. Army Europe, performed the same rite of passage alongside U.S. and German dignitaries, breaking ground Friday, to signify the start of construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center Replacement, or ROBMCR, which is scheduled to replace the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, referred to as simply Landstuhl, and the Ramstein Air Base Clinic.
Although current hostilities in Afghanistan are more than 3,000 miles away, Campbell, noted that the site of the groundbreaking ceremony remains vital.
"This important location in Germany is, and has been, a strategic lifesaving place for the United States. The last 13-plus years of conflict have validated and proven the vital need for world-class military medical care in this region of the world," Campbell said before a crowd of approximately 150 U.S. and host nation guests.
Those sentiments were echoed by U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Karen Guice.
"This new hospital and clinics will continue to provide a place of healing for our warriors wounded in battle -- continuing 60 years of service and commitment into the future," said Guice.
She noted that the new medical center will be the largest and most sophisticated military system outside the United States and an "unmatched medical asset for our military."
Equally important to the facility's unmatched structural sophistication, said Guice, will be the continued selfless service by doctors, nurses, medics, technicians, administrators and support staff who will be the "heart and soul" of the new facility.
Their dedication will "turn bricks and mortar, stones and steel into a place where patients will be cared for, treated and supported; a place where care is safe. A place where quality is high. A place of pride, of service, of hope. A new beginning for an ongoing history of excellence," she said.
More than 72,000 U.S. Service members and civilian employees medically evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq have landed the past 13 years at Ramstein Air Base, adjacent to the site of the new medical center. From there, patients are loaded onto ambulance buses for the approximately 30-minute ride to Landstuhl.
When the ROBMCR is open for business, those same patients will land at Ramstein and travel only about 15 minutes to the new medical center, without ever leaving the secure confines of a U.S. military installation.
In the meantime, world-class health care will still be offered at Landstuhl and Ramstein, where approximately 600,000 patients are treated annually. Landstuhl is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States, and serves the needs of beneficiaries in U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and the western U.S. Pacific Command areas of responsibility. The Ramstein Air Base Clinic is the largest Air Force clinic outside the continental United States.
However, both healthcare facilities are beyond their intended services lives. Landstuhl was built as a semi-permanent hospital in 1953, and is one of the oldest inpatient facilities in the DOD inventory. Fundamental building layouts and infrastructure cannot be modified through repair and severely limit the fielding of up-to-date medical and building technologies needed to meet current standards.
"The facilities are aging and becoming outdated, thus the need for modernizing our current capability, replacing Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Clinic with a single, more cost-effective solution that will continue to provide world-class medical care for our Service members wounded in combat, along with their families and retirees stationed here in Germany and throughout Europe," said Campbell.
The $990 million ROBMCR will include nine operating rooms, 68 beds and 120 examination rooms, and will include a surge capacity that will allow it to rapidly expand to 93 beds. The hospital design complies with stringent German environmental quality requirements.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been instrumental in every step of the process of bringing the new medical center to fruition. From conceptual planning and design until construction is complete, the Corps of Engineers will continue to play a key role. One of corps' vital contributions is working hand-in-hand with its German partners.
"Many may not know that the German government is the lead agency for most aspects of the planning, design and construction which truly makes this a world-class facility through our professional and vital partnership," said Campbell. "As stated before, much hard work and great work through teamwork has gotten us to this point and those efforts will continue to be the foundation of success in the way ahead as this great facility develops."
"The earth that will be turned today and the construction of the medical center are only possible through the partnership and support of not only the German construction agencies, but also the federal, the state, and the local communities and officials representing them," said Lloyd Caldwell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers director of Military Programs. "They are all stakeholders in this project."
The next phase for construction of the ROBMCR will be mass grading, scheduled to begin in February, and last for about one year. The center is projected to be operational in 2022.