U.S., German officials meet to discuss possible Landstuhl move
The following correction to this story was posted January 22: Due to an editing error, a Jan. 22 story about the possibility of moving Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to another location should have said the hospital was built in 1953. As of Jan. 10, it was staffed by 1,786 military members and 1,283 civilians. And it is supported by an Army, not an Air Force, helicopter medical evacuation unit.
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — U.S. military commanders met with German officials this week to discuss the possibility of moving Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to the site of an old Army depot east of Ramstein Air Base.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein, told local mayors on Wednesday that U.S. leaders would recommend moving the center to Weilerbach Army Depot, according to Sandra Archer, an Air Force spokeswoman.
The depot is now used only occasionally for military training, according to U.S. Army Europe spokesman Bruce Anderson.
USAREUR’s commander, Gen. Carter Ham, discussed the proposal on Thursday with Rheinland-Pfalz Minister President Kurt Beck and the German state’s Minister of the Interior Karl Peter Bruch.
Stars and Stripes attempted to speak to Ham later in the day at a separate event in Stuttgart, but was denied access to the general.
Beck said in a statement Thursday that plans to relocate the hospital would be a "great chance" for the state’s building industry and "for the safeguarding of jobs." He estimated that such a project could pump up to $1 billion into the local economy.
The Department of Defense has sent a survey team to look at the costs and plan, Clark said, but any project would have to be approved by Congress. DOD officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Landstuhl hospital — the largest U.S. medical facility in Europe — was built in 1953. It has treated more than 60,000 wounded troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, hospital officials said.
The hospital is staffed by 1,786 military members and 1,283 civilians, according to figures as of Jan. 10, hospital officials said.
In August 2008, hospital officials received congressional approval for a $400 million improvement project.
"They got money allocated to improve LRMC, but they are trying to determine whether a consolidated medical facility would be better [near] Ramstein," said Lt. Cmdr. Taylor Clark, U.S. European Command spokesman.
Landstuhl Mayor Klaus Grumer said Thursday that he would need to know exact plans for the project before determining its effect on the city, located about 10 miles south of Ramstein.
"First of all, we have to find out what exactly will be relocated. Will it be just the hospital or also supporting services, for example, the United Service Organizations Warrior Center, the blood bank, the dental clinic?"
The Army post at Landstuhl also is host to a Fisher House facility, where family members of sick and wounded servicemembers can stay while their loved ones are being treated at the hospital.
In an earlier interview, Army Col. Brian Lein, then the hospital commander, said any move would involve such support facilities.
"It’s not just the hospital we’re talking about," Lein said during a July 2009 interview with Stars and Stripes. "It’s the USO, the [medical transient detachment], the barracks and the Fisher houses. You can’t just move the hospital. You’d have to take everything from here and then move it to some place over on Ramstein."
An Army helicopter medical evacuation unit also supports the post. Grumer said if that were moved, it may solve some noise issues in the city.
"In the past when we had to deal with noise complaints, we were always told that the helicopter unit had to stay close to the hospital for supporting service," Grumer said.
Grumer said if the existing site is abandoned, the city of Landstuhl needs to explore options for using the site.
Stars and Stripes reporter Warren Peace contributed to this story.