The 67th Combat Support Hospital has moved its patient wards into a pair of buildings at Forward Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq, the hospital’s commander said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Karen Gausman said the two former Iraqi air force barracks had been used to house 4th Infantry Division soldiers during the first Operation Iraqi Freedom troop rotation last year but had been abandoned when 1st Infantry Division troops took over the base in February.

The hospital formerly had been housed in a series of interconnected tents on the other side of the base. Patients’ rooms will be in the two buildings, which are connected by a covered walkway, Gausman said, while operating rooms, laboratories and the pharmacy remain next door in tents.

The new hospital is near the main dining facility, gym and post exchange.

“We’re much closer to all the amenities,” she said.

Gausman said the site was identified about six months ago.

Contractors began renovating the buildings in September and completed the work just after Christmas. She said the new emergency room opened Dec. 29 and received its first patient within half an hour. The 67th CSH hosted a grand-opening ceremony Jan. 4. Two new helipads also were built nearby.

The chief advantages to the new buildings, Gausman said, are cleanliness and security. It is difficult to keep dust out of tents, and canvas offers no protection against mortars that sometimes are fired onto the base.

“[The new buildings] do provide a concrete structure, so we’re not running for the bunkers with our patients,” she said.

The 67th CSH deployed to Iraq from its home base in Würzburg, Germany, in January 2004. It is scheduled to return during the next few weeks. The unit also opened a $450,000 hospital at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul in November, according to a news release from the Multinational Force Iraq. That hospital proved valuable a month later, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the chow hall at Marez, killing 22 people and injuring 69 others.

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