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Town hall meetings focus on military health care

Jun. 27, 2014 - 05:11PM   |  
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Military patients and health care providers are voicing their opinions in town hall meetings at seven installations during a review of military health care ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Four of the meetings for beneficiaries have already been held. It’s unclear how much advance notice beneficiaries were given for those meetings, which do not appear to have been widely publicized.

No beneficiaries attended the town hall meeting at Naval Medical Center San Diego because of the short notice, and the team may return for another meeting there, said a spokesman for the medical center.

A decision has not yet been made, he said, “but we’d like for them to come back.” The initial town hall meeting for medical providers at that center was well attended, he said.

Two meetings are scheduled for next week for beneficiaries:

■Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Community Hospital: 2 p.m. Monday, June 30 in the hospital dining facility.

■Patuxent River, Maryland, Naval Clinic: 3 p.m., Tuesday, July 1 in Building 1489, Room 102.

A town hall meeting at RAF Lakenheath Air Force Hospital in the United Kingdom reportedly will be held the week of July 7, but further details were not immedaitely available.

Information about the visits will be posted on www.health.mil, said Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness at a Wednesday meeting of the Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council.

In addition to the first visit to San Diego, the team also has already visited Madigan Army Hospital, Fort Lewis, Washington; the Air Force Academy Clinic, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Winn Army Hospital, Fort Stewart, Georgia.

The review must be completed and recommendations sent to Hagel by Aug. 29. It is

focused on quality of care, access to care and safety within the military health system, Wright said. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work will lead the review, with support from Wright’s office and the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, and participation by the service secretaries, service chiefs, and all service surgeons general.

“We’re not doing this in a vacuum or grading our own work,” Wright said, noting that three outside experts have helped officials establish the metrics for the review, and once the analysis is complete, three other outside experts will “grade our work.”

“If we find an issue, we will deal with that issue.”

The Pentagon announced the review May 27, saying Hagel had been considering it in the wake of the Veterans Affairs Department scandal over patient appointment scheduling and wait times. The announcement also came the day after the Army relieved its hospital commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, citing “lost trust and confidence in his command.”

In a memo released May 29, Hagel said he directed the 90-day review to help guide the development of department standards that exceed national averages. “The department must continue to provide the best available health care to our service men and women and their families,” Hagel wrote. “They deserve nothing short of our highest level of effort.”

Staff writer Patricia Kime contributed to this report.

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