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Monday, October 19, 2020

Explained: History of Walter Reed hospital where Trump was treated for Covid-19

The military facility, popularly dubbed the President’s Hospital, has a long history of treating the country’s top brass — from senior military officials, Congress members and Supreme Court justices to past Presidents and their family members.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | October 4, 2020 12:21:34 pm
The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center first opened in Bethesda, Maryland during the fall of 2011 after Congress ordered the consolidation of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. (Bloomberg)

Soon after announcing that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Friday, US President Donald Trump was moved to the prestigious Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for treatment.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany had said at the time.

In a video shared from the medical centre’s opulent presidential suite on Sunday, Trump called the hospital “the finest in the world” and thanked all its “incredible” nurses and doctors who have been treating him over the last two days.

The military facility, popularly dubbed the President’s Hospital, has a long history of treating the country’s top brass — from senior military officials, members of Congress and Supreme Court justices to past Presidents and their family members.

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What is the history of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center?

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center first opened in Bethesda, Maryland during the fall of 2011 after Congress ordered the consolidation of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center.

But the history of the Army medical facility dates back to 1909. For nearly a century, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center — originally located in Washington DC — treated tens of thousands of soldiers wounded during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The facility is named after an Army doctor who was behind the research that first identified yellow fever, the potentially deadly flu-like disease spread by mosquitoes. After it was combined with the National Naval Medical Center nine years ago, it was converted into a tri-service military medical centre and shifted to Maryland’s Bethesda, located just outside the US capital.

Sitting on a sprawling 243-acre campus, the centre houses 100 clinics and specialties and is run by about 7,000 staff members. Apart from military personnel and their families, Walter Reed also provides care for senior government officials, including the president and vice president.

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Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is shown in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

What do we know about the presidential suite, where Trump has been admitted?

Also known as Ward 71, the presidential suite where Trump is currently being treated for Covid-19 is no ordinary hospital room. The luxurious six-room suite comes complete with its own intensive care unit, a living room, dining room, several bedrooms, offices and secure conference halls.

Interestingly, Trump’s admission to the hospital marks the first time in the last 39 years that a sitting president has been hospitalised, according to US journalist Richard Southern. The last president to be admitted as an inpatient was Ronald Reagan after he was shot in the chest in an attempted assassination on March 30, 1981.

Located on the south side of the medical centre’s campus, the suite also includes an office for the White House Chief of Staff and a separate sleeping quarters for the president’s personal physician — who is meant to be present and on-call throughout the president’s stay.

If at some point, Trump requires specialty medical care that his personal physician cannot provide, a pre-screened list of vetted surgeons and specialists is also available to the US President. Even Walter Reed’s own administrators are not granted unrestricted access to the suite, which is fitted with state-of-the-art protective devices, according to an NBC report.

More from Explained | Trump undergoes remdesivir therapy for Covid-19: How it acts against coronavirus

How many presidents and their family members have been treated here?

Trump is by no means the first US President to be treated at the prestigious medical centre. Past Presidents including Richard Nixon, Ronald Raegan, and Dwight D Eisenhower have also been treated at the Army medical facility, while it was still located in Washington DC.

Nixon was treated for a staph infection at Walter Reed in 1960, when he was serving as Vice President of the United States. In 1968, years after he had left office, President Dwight D Eisenhower was admitted with coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, and eventually died in the hospital in 1969.

donald trump coronavirus, trump covid-19, trump covid doctor, donald trump health updates, melania trump coronavirus, white house Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, speaks during a briefing at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on Saturday. (The New York Times)

Several family members of US Presidents have also been treated at the hospital. Just two years ago, First Lady Melania Trump underwent surgery for a kidney condition at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Even earlier, former President Calvin Coolidge’s 16-year-old son tragically passed away at the army medical facility in 1924 due to septicaemia or blood poisoning.

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