MARYLAND

Walter Reed hospital workers receive furlough notices

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ABC7 has confirmed the region’s two military hospitals are furloughing more than 3,500 civilian employees who care for the nation’s wounded warriors, nearly their entire civilian staffs.

The impacted employees are from departments across the board at both hospitals, including members of the trauma team, physical therapists and nurses. They will be forced to take 11 unpaid furlough days starting in July.

Hospital officials say the furloughs affect 2,392 caregivers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. That’s 94% of the civilian staff there.

Officials say 1,163 caregivers at Fort Belvoir’s hospital in Virginia are being furloughed, affecting 85% of its civilian staff.

Officials promise patient care will not be compromised.

“The assessment of over 2,500 civilian positions determined that 163 staff exemptions were necessary to maintain the highest levels of care for warrior inpatients and outpatients in rehabilitation and other critical areas,” Walter Reed said in a statement. “Fortunately, our wounded warrior census is significantly lower than experienced during the peak wartime period, yet our staffing remains consistent with peak levels.”

Hospital officials refused ABC7’s repeated requests for an interview. But a staffer who spoke with ABC7 said employees were told not to speak with the media.

The furloughs stem from the automatic budget cuts from sequestration.

Out of the Department of Defense's 800,000 civilian workers, about 68,000 are exempt from the furloughs. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said furloughs will save the department $1.8 billion.

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