After years of delays and cost overruns, the William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) at Fort Bliss outside El Paso, TX, finally opened in 2021. After only a few months of operation, employees at the facility noticed debris in the water, forcing hospital authorities to bar water for drinking and sterilizing equipment.
The problem, first discovered on March 25, was initially thought only to affect one hospital area. Additional testing revealed contaminants in other areas of the water supply system. Tests determined that the contaminants did not originate in El Paso’s water supply. The Army Medical Center has not disclosed the source of the problem.
According to a report from Military.com, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed the construction of the six-building hospital complex designed by HDR Inc. and built by Clark McCarthy Healthcare Partners II.
The Army Medical Center provides 135 inpatient beds and two outpatient facilities that provide comprehensive care to active and retired military and their families. The hospital also offers emergency facilities to the Northeast El Paso region.
“WBAMC and Fort Bliss place the safety of patients and the hospital staff first. Technical experts continue to troubleshoot systems and develop both near and long-term solutions,” Fort Bliss officials said in a press release, according to Military.com.
Officials from the Army Medical Center, the Defense Health Agency, the Army Installation Management Control, the Army Medical Command, and the Corps of Engineers continue to investigate the facility’s water issue.
The Army Medical Center has temporarily canceled all elective surgeries and moved some procedures off-site to other hospitals. WBAMC typically sees fifty to sixty patients per day, but officials have not stated how many inpatients are currently in the facility.
The facility was initially slated to open in 2017 but was repeatedly pushed back due to various design flaws and setbacks. The project eventually exceeded the budget by more than $600 million.
WBAMC officials have not said what the debris is but determined that it is not of “pathogenic or environmental concern.” The Army Medical Center installed temporary hand-washing stations and is providing bottled water to staff and patients until workers can determine the cause of the contamination. The hospital has sent medical equipment off-site to a Fort Bliss dental facility for sterilization.
Water continues to flow for showering and other tasks but is considered non-potable until workers discover the cause of the contamination. The facility is diverting trauma cases to other hospitals. However, the emergency room and services are currently operational.
Additional testing of the Army Medical Center’s water supply system continues. Officials said that they would provide an update once the problem has been resolved.