Policy Changes and More Realistic Planning Can Reduce Size of New San Diego Naval Hospital

MWD-76-117: Published: Apr 7, 1976. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1976.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) plans to build a new naval hospital in San Diego, California, consisting of 900 acute care beds and 300 light care beds. It would replace the existing facility at Balboa Park. The Navy believes that a new hospital is needed at a new location because of structural inadequacies, inefficient arrangement of hospital buildings, noise problems, and safety hazards caused by commercial aircraft near the existing site.

GAO believes that some construction is needed; however, final decisions on size and location should await the policy guidance needed from Congress which could substantially affect hospital size. GAO found that the criteria used by DOD to size the new hospital did not reflect expected use patterns which resulted in a planned facility with 600 acute beds, and 300 light care beds would be needed if the beneficiary categories continued to use the new hospital in the same ratios that they have in the past. However, if the beds provided for retirees and dependents of the retired and deceased members were limited to 10 percent of the bed requirements for active duty members or their dependents, as called for under DOD policy, only 480 acute care beds would be needed. There are opportunities to further reduce the size of the proposed hospital by clarifying existing policy regarding whom new military hospitals are being built for and establishing a policy that would require sharing of excess acute care bed capacity at other nearby Federal hospitals. If Congress decides that a large hospital is needed, GAO believes either Balboa Park or Murphy Canyon would be appropriate. It would be appropriate for DOD to acquire control of the Murphy Canyon site so it can build at either location if Congress decides a large hospital is needed. DOD can reduce medical costs to the Government and be a leader in demonstrating the feasibility of sharing Federal facilities without adversely affecting the medical training program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should withdraw the DOD hospital sizing criteria now used and implement a planning methodology to adjust actual bed utilization figures to conform to community data for average lengths of stay, use adjusted figures to project acute care bed requirements, and provide sufficient light care facilities to meet special requirements of the military which result from the fact that patients cannot always return to their duty station for a normal convalescent period. The Secretary should await the decisions of Congress on the matters affecting hospital size before making the final site selection.

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