Substandard Conditions at Nation's Leading Military Hospital Disputed

Feb. 22, 2007 — -- A day after Pentagon officials promised swift action to correct deteriorating conditions in an outpatient facility at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army surgeon general said the building is not "substandard," calling much of it "perfectly acceptable."

Substandard Conditions Disputed

Earlier this week, the Washington Post examined conditions at the former hotel turned medical facility and reported substandard conditions including black mold, cockroaches, mouse droppings and stained carpets.

At a press conference Thursday, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley described the newspaper's account a "one-sided representation."

Kiley's comments seemed to directly contradict those made Wednesday at the Pentagon by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody.

"We were absolutely disappointed in the status of the rooms and found the delays and lack of attention to detail to the building's repairs inexcusable," Cody told reporters.

Kiley said critics -- including members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, two of whom introduced legislation this week to improve conditions at military hospitals -- were using only the newspaper's report as a frame of reference.

He suggested that if the Army were given the opportunity to address the concerns before the story was printed, the issues could have been quickly dealt with internally.

ABC News Tour Reveals Quick Action, Content Soldiers

ABC News took a tour of Walter Reed's soon-to-be-renamed Building 18, quickly discovering the mold in Room 205 -- a large focus of the story -- had been removed. The wallpaper had been scraped from the walls and a fresh coat of paint was the only detectable odor.

In the old hotel's "Day Room," soldiers were seen playing pool and watching plasma screen televisions. Some of the soldiers who spoke to reporters said they didn't think the place was so bad.

"I've been in worse places," said Sgt. Michael Artis, who was evacuated from Baghdad for surgery at Walter Reed.

He described the problems at Building 18 as "small."

It was a sentiment LTG Kiley echoed later at a press conference, "[Soldiers say], 'Hey sir, you know, I was living in Iraq and now I'm living here. Life is good."