Commander's Corner: 377th MDG takes care of returning servicemembers

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- The spotlight on Walter Reed Army Medical Center, D.C., has caused concern over the medical care our injured servicemembers are receiving, especially our men and women returning from deployment. If you saw the story in last Sunday's Albuquerque Journal, then you know that we have a good news story to tell locally.

The 377th Medical Group is actively working with the Department of Veterans Affairs at our joint venture facility to track patients returning from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom to ensure they receive appropriate and quality healthcare, just like the rest of us. Two of the main forums for this are the medical group's Patient Safety Program and the case manager.

The 377th MDG patient safety manager works closely with the VA patient safety manager in order to identify and address issues that cross the boundaries of the two facilities. Patients who have questions or concerns about any patient safety issue can contact Terrance Duke, the patient safety manager, at 853-2991

The 377th MDG case manager, Julie Ferguson, works directly with the OIF/OEF Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines. She is notified of an incoming OIF/OEF military member and starts the process for transferring healthcare. The case manager identifies the patient's needs, what kind of injuries and what kind of resources will be required for the individual's care. If the individual suffered an improvised explosive device blast then specialized tests are set up to screen for further injury.

Every effort is taken to provide a seamless transfer of healthcare. The 377th MDG patient safety manager and case manager work with the VA to combine resources and address OIF/OEF needs such as posttraumatic stress disorder, pain management, demobilization briefings and marriage counseling.

The 377th Medical Group has been so successful at ensuring the healthcare for our OIF/OEF returnees that they have become the benchmark "model" and have been asked to participate in a teleconference with other bases to share their success story.
I hope that all of you are able to keep the events at Walter Reed in perspective. I do not think by any means that the condition of facilities there should be seen as an indicator of a widespread neglect or as a sign that America does not take care of its injured veterans. When we discover problems like this, we need to act quickly and fix them, instead of fixating on who is to blame.

Servicemembers returning from an OIF/OEF deployment who have questions or concerns can contact Julie Ferguson at 853-0622. We think we're taking great care of all our patients, but if there is an area where we can improve, we want to know about it!