Fort Leonard Wood breaks ground on new hospital
FORT LEONARD WOOD — U.S. Army officials, legislators and others gathered to break ground June 22 on the new General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, a $295 million, state-of-the-art, 52-acre hospital complex that, when completed in 2024, will replace the current hospital facility.
"Today is a dream come true for this military community and for the entire region," said Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, who described the event as a "historic moment for Fort Leonard Wood."
When completed, the new complex will include a 235,400-square-foot hospital facility along with a 193,000-square-foot clinic, a central utility plant, emergency back-up generators, five-bay ambulance garage, helipad and supporting facilities.
"The new hospital will have all the capabilities of our current facility," said Col. Kimberlie Biever, GLWACH commander. "It will be more efficient in terms of function, it will be more cost-effective to maintain, and it will be a beautiful facility where people want to work and where our patients will be welcomed in a therapeutic environment. The clinical locations were thoughtfully planned to ensure patients can navigate through the hospital easily and efficiently and receive needed health care. There will be convenient patient parking after the project is complete, and during the period of construction upon relocating to the new facility, GLWACH staff will continue to provide excellent medical care in a kind and compassionate environment."
Despite recently being ranked No. 1 in outpatient efficiency by U.S. Army Medical Command, the current hospital, built in 1965, is the oldest in the Army system, and has presented several challenges to health-care providers, Biever said.
Lt. Gen. Scott Dingle, the 45th Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Medical Command commanding general, praised the current GLWACH command and staff for their response during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, adding that their commitment illustrated the fact that "military readiness and military health care are inextricably linked."
Likewise, he said, the modernization of the hospital facilities would benefit the missions here.
“The hospital is the same age as I am, and as modernization is always occurring, as medical technology is always occurring, the hospital obviously has been modernized and upgraded," Dingle said. "However, in order for us to keep pace with the beneficiary population, the care to support the readiness of our Soldiers and family members and civilians, it’s time for us to give them the equipment, the facility, that can support the requirements. So, I believe it’s long overdue. The mission here is a tremendous mission for the Army, because it provides the Army its lifeline. That’s why it’s such an honor to be here to do the groundbreaking.”
Prior to the official ceremonies, Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, said the new facility is designed to serve the area for decades to come, just as GLWACH has served the post for more than a half-century.
"It’s important for us to have the right sorts of health care capabilities present on the installation," Place said. "This particular facility is 55 years old. As you walk through it, it doesn’t look 55 years old, but it is. That speaks to two things: first, the dedication of the facilities team here, maintaining this building to the greatest of their abilities such that it can serve the community. But it also means as technology progresses, and the way that we know things are better positioned and organized and built to serve the health care delivery, sometimes that means a new facility. So, we’re at a tipping point now, where the DoD and the Army are committed to continue to have a hospital here at Fort Leonard Wood. But, it now has to be recapitalized in a way that serves the purpose of delivering health care now in the 2020s."
One of the key improvements the new facilities will provide is expanded intensive-care capacity, Place said.
"The new hospital, with new designs, will better enable the local community here to care for those who are more critically ill," he said. "Medicine, particularly in America, is leveraging technology — in particular, virtual health technology — and one of the leading-edge things that leaders here at (GLWACH) have done over the last five or six years is to reach out to other organizations for assistance with monitoring and assistance with the intensive-care unit side. And the relationship has proven that safe care can be delivered in a relatively small community hospital far from other places, and yet still be able to take care of critical-care patients. That’s wrapped into the construction plan for this particular facility to continue to do that."
Brig. Gen. Pete Helmlinger, commanding general of the Northwestern Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, indicated some of the methods used to plan and build the new facilities are on the cutting edge and being done in collaboration between the Corps of Engineers, the Kansas City, Missouri-based firm JE Dunn Construction, which was awarded the design-build contract for the new hospital in August, in partnership with RLF Architects of Orlando, Florida.
"It truly will be world-class," Helmlinger said. "Some of the innovative and collaborative methods being used on this project include rendering spaces in virtual reality as a low-cost means to allow hospital and clinic staff to experience spaces and identify issues before construction begins. It also includes the development of off-site physical mock-ups within the hospital and clinic to verify how key spaces will be constructed. Other innovations include the use of building information modeling 4-D to integrate schedule and activities into the three-dimensional model. This is the first project within the Corps of Engineers to require this revolutionary project-delivery tool."
JE Dunn Construction Midwest Region President Paul Neidlein said up to 4,000 people will be hired by his company and subcontractors to work on the project at various times over the next four years.
"Some of our partners are already making local hires, so you will see local people working on this project," he said.
Other speakers during the ceremony included Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, who provided pre-recorded messages, and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Earlier in her remarks, Martin said she mentioned the groundbreaking to Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper during his visit to the post June 18.
"I have to tell you that when the Secretary of Defense visited last week, I told him that, if there was one thing that was the center of gravity, it was having an on-post hospital," she said. "Maintaining our hospital on post is a huge win for the Army and the nation, but more importantly for every person we serve. So, as our 1960s-era hospital gives way to the new facility we're breaking ground for — I hope when you drive by this construction site, you'll think about what doesn't change: our commitment to our people."
Editor's note: GUIDON Managing Editor Brian Hill contributed to this story.