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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Austin taken to hospital for bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin leaves a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Feb. 1, 2024. The Pentagon announced on Sunday, February 11, 2024, that Austin had been taken that afternoon to a military hospital to be treated for “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue.” (Yuri Gripas/The New York Times)

By Edward Wong

The Pentagon announced Sunday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been taken to a military hospital to be treated for “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” and doctors at the hospital later said it was not clear how long he would remain there.

Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:20 p.m., a Pentagon spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, said in the military’s initial statement. He added that the deputy defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been notified, as well as the White House and members of Congress.

In a second statement Sunday evening, Ryder said that Austin, 70, had “transferred the functions and duties” of his office to the deputy defense secretary, Kathleen Hicks, about 4:55 p.m.

Another statement, issued late Sunday by two senior doctors at Walter Reed, said that Austin had been admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit that night after a series of tests. The doctors, John Maddox and Gregory Chesnut, said it was not clear how long he would be hospitalized.

Last month, Austin spent several days at Walter Reed being treated for complications related to a recent prostate cancer surgery. The doctors said in their statement Sunday that his bladder issue “is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery” and that his cancer prognosis remained excellent.

The announcements appeared to be aimed at showing transparency around Austin’s medical condition and stressed the fact that multiple top officials across the U.S. government had been informed.

Austin came under widespread criticism last month after initially keeping his hospital visit a secret from top administration officials, including President Joe Biden, the White House national security adviser, the secretary of state and senior officials in the Pentagon, including those immediately under him in the office.

Austin also had not informed the president that he had undergone the original surgery in December.

Lawmakers called for the Pentagon to provide answers on why so many officials were kept in the dark. Biden said on Jan. 12 that he still had confidence in Austin. But when the president was asked whether it had been a lapse in judgment for Austin not to have informed him that he had been out of commission, Biden said, “Yes.”

Austin, a retired four-star Army general and former commander of the U.S. Central Command, had served in the military for more than 40 years when he took the top Pentagon job in 2021. Throughout his career, he has sought to avoid attention and has tried to keep many parts of his life out of the public spotlight.

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