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Commander of Western Regional Medical Command suspended, Army says

Sep. 4, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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The commanding general of Western Regional Medical Command has been suspended pending “the outcome of an inquiry centered on the command climate of the organization,” the Army announced Thursday.

Brig. Gen. John Cho’s suspension is effective Thursday, the Army said in a statement.

The Army inspector general is conducting the inquiry.

Cho was suspended by Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general and commander of Army Medical Command.

Horoho is slated to assign an interim commander while the suspension is in place, the Army said.

“The Army remains committed to ensuring we have the right leaders in place to lead our organizations which provide high quality medical care to our soldiers, their families and our retirees,” the Army said in its statement.

Cho took command of Western Regional Medical Command in October, according to a news release at the time. The WRMC is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. It is responsible for 11 Army military treatment facilities and 11 Warrior Transition Units across 20 states, according to the command. The WRMC also is responsible for health care delivery to nearly 400,000 active, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers, their families, retirees and their families.

Cho, the first active-duty soldier of Korean descent to achieve the rank of brigadier general, most recently served as the deputy commander for support at Army Medical Command.

A West Point graduate, Cho is a cardiothoracic surgeon who completed residencies in general surgery at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Colorado, and cardiothoracic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His command assignments include Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, six Army military treatment facilities across Europe, and Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Colorado, according to information from WRMC.

The news of Cho’s suspension comes as Secretary Chuck Hagel reviews the results of a 90-day audit of military medical facilities.

A report was due to Hagel on Aug. 29, and the secretary is expected to receive a briefing on it in mid-September.

Hagel said he directed the review in light of ongoing problems at Veterans Affairs medical centers.

But the review coincided with publication in the New York Times of results from the paper’s year-long investigation into patient safety at military medical facilities.

The head of the Army hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was relieved of command in May following reports of the deaths of at least two patients from complications or neglect.

An Army Medical Command spokesperson said the relief of Col. Steven Brewster was a result of the deaths as well as problems with surgical-infection control at the facility.

On Sept. 1, the Times reported that many small, underutilized hospitals put patients at risk because a dearth of cases compromises doctors’ abilities to diagnose and treat serious illnesses.

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