Lt. Col. Michael Williams said he remembers going to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at age 8 for stitches, and then again at age 12 for a sports physical. Now the Killeen native said it feels “surreal” to oversee construction of the $534 million facility set to replace the Fort Hood hospital next year.
“I had no idea I would build something that would shape the skyline here in my hometown,” he said while providing an update on construction to members of the local chapter of the Military Officers Association of America during the club’s monthly meeting Friday.
Darnall is one of many medical construction projects Williams’ team oversees as a project manager for the western region of the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency.
The new Darnall is 60 percent larger than the current facility built in 1965 to support a post population of about 17,000. At nearly 1 million square feet, the building features easy navigation among the clinics, a pneumatic tube system to transport everything from medical samples to trash, pharmaceutical robotics to mitigate medication errors and four healing gardens.
Construction should finish in November, after which crews can begin to move in the 54,000 pieces of equipment purchased for the hospital, Williams said. Then, staff training will begin.
“We have to train staff to think about how to conduct health care in the new facility,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to train our staff to make it as smooth as possible for patients and staff.”
Kenneth “Scooter” Barclay, a retired lieutenant colonel, said he uses Darnall and was impressed with what he heard from Williams. He looks forward to the increased number of parking spaces — the new hospital will have more than 5,000.
“If you go to Darnall right now, it’s very hard to find a place to park and it’s a long walk,” the World War II veteran said. “The access will be fantastic.”
The old facility will go to the use of Fort Hood’s garrison command, Williams said.
“The bones of the building are still good,” he said. Some of the proposed uses include housing soldier readiness processing, the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Community Service or elements of the 1st Medical Brigade.
The local chapter of MOAA meets once a month and offers a guest speaker at each meeting on a topic relevant to both active-duty and retired military officers.