FORT RILEY — Underneath all the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday morning’s changing of command ceremony for Fort Riley’s Irwin Army Community Hospital at the Calvary Parade Field, there was a layer of uncertainty about the future of the facility.
After all, the U.S. military is downsizing, and Fort Riley is in the crosshairs of potential cuts, according to recent reports.
Still, Col. Risa Ware, Irwin Army Community Hospital’s new commander, is determined to pick up where outgoing commander Col. Barry Pockrandt left off, especially when it comes to the integration of the post’s new $400 million hospital replacement, which is expected to open and begin caring for patients by summer of next year.
“I’m confident we will be able to provide the best possible care to soldiers, to the families, to our retirees, and to our veterans here in the Flint Hills area,” she said after the ceremony. “I can’t guarantee at what level it’s going to be, but I think at least for the foreseeable future, we’re going to stay at full occupation capacity, and it’s going to be great.”
Ware said she wasn’t sure on what timetable she expects to know when or if cuts are coming and how such cuts might affect the hospital.
“We know right now that we are fully funded and will continue to function well into the new fiscal year,” she said. “A lot of it depends on what Congress does in the new fiscal year, and I can’t predict Congress.”
If Fort Riley and its new hospital end up unscathed financially, Ware said she’s excited about the opportunities for care the new hospital will provide.
“I’m very excited (about it),” said Ware, a Plainview, Texas, native who was most recently the deputy commander for nursing at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. “I’ve planned many new hospitals, and (it will be great) to move us into a state-of-the-art facility.
“The one we’re in right now was built in the 1950s and has had a lot of upgrades, but it has reached its limit. This new hospital will allow us to continue to provide us front-line, top-notch, state-of-the-art management for everyone we will care for, and I’m very excited about that.”