$215 million military hospital in S. Korea one step closer to November opening
By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 24, 2019
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The United States took possession of a state-of-the-art, 68-bed hospital at the new U.S. military headquarters in South Korea during a ceremony Wednesday.
The handover put the $215 million facility one step closer to opening, seven years after the military broke ground on it.
The Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital and ambulatory care center, the namesake of the hospital that will close at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, is scheduled to officially open for patients on Nov. 15.
That will be a relief for the more than 30,000 Americans based at Camp Humphreys, many of whom must commute some 55 miles north to the South Korean capital for services, including behavioral health care and childbirth.
On Wednesday, speakers alluded to the problems that faced the South Korean-funded construction project. The hospital is a centerpiece of the nearly $11 billion effort to expand Camp Humphreys, a former remote outpost, as part of the long-delayed relocation of most American forces to the south of Seoul.
“Today is one of those days that I was afraid would never come,” said Col. Teresa Schlosser, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District. She attended the ceremony on her last day as district commander.
“I appreciate being able to close out this hospital after all the years of hard work to get it across the finish line,” she said.
Services to be offered at the 418,572-square-foot facility include emergency, primary care, behavioral health, physical and occupational therapy. It also will have an intensive care unit and a room for cesarean sections in the maternity unit.
It was designed to provide medical services to servicemembers, family members and other eligible beneficiaries.
Ground was broken for the new hospital in November 2012, but construction was plagued by numerous quality control issues and delays as the South Korean contractor struggled to meet rigid U.S. standards.
In a last-minute hitch, inspectors recently rejected plans for the fire prevention system, forcing the contractor to start over, according to Brig. Gen. Yoon Young Dae, the head of the program management division for the Defense Ministry agency overseeing the U.S. Forces Korea relocation.
“We had to replace all of the firewalls,” Yoon said Wednesday. “I was devastated and worried about the handover, but we managed to get it done.”
The project cost nearly $215 million, Yoon said. That’s more than 40% above the original estimate given by other officials and years behind schedule.
The United States has paid about $50 million to furnish and equip the facility, officials said.
Hospital commander Col. Andrew Landers blamed most of the delays on requirements that the facility meet U.S. standards set by the Joint Commission, an accreditation organization.
He expressed confidence that all the problems had been resolved.
“My complete focus is at all times we will maintain high quality and safe patient care and I have gotten zero pressure to move into this hospital without meeting those criteria,” Landers told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.
He said the hospital at Yongsan will close on Oct. 1, but extra staff will be deployed to the hospital at Osan Air Base to fill the vacuum until the Humphreys hospital opens.
The Humphreys hospital also will make available services such as physical and occupational therapy in September ahead of the official opening.
The South Koreans have fulfilled most of their obligations, but Landers said the facility remains under warranty for another year, so they’ll continue to do minor fixes. He said the heating system also will need to be re-tested in the winter as part of the commissioning process.
“We are well on track to Nov. 15,” he said.
Col. Garrett Cottrell, of the Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, and Col. Lee Woo-sig, representing the South Korean government, sign documents during a ceremony marking the U.S. government acceptance of the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
MATTHEW KEELER/STARS AND STRIPES