Scott included in defense secretary's call for medical review

News-DemocratJune 23, 2014 

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A sign welcomes visitors through the Belleville Gate entrance at Scott Air Force Base.

SSGT CHAD R. GANN, USAF — Chad R. Gann, USAF

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of all military health-care facilities, including at Scott Air Force Base, in the wake of the Veterans Administration hospitals scandal.

Hagel will hold a series of town hall-style meetings on military health-care as part of a 90-day review of the quality, access and safety of care available for active duty personnel and retirees.

The 90-day review, prompted by the recent controversy over long waits and scheduling abuses at VA hospitals nationwide, will be led by Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, with the help of the secretaries of the military departments and the service chiefs.

The review will encompass hundreds of base facilities and thousands of civilian physicians and hospitals. Included in the review will be the outpatient clinic at Scott Air Force Base run by the 375th Medical Group.

In 2009, the former Scott Medical Center was downgraded from a hospital with an inpatient mission to a clinic with an ambulatory surgery center. The move was ordered by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in November 2005.

In part, the move was made because of the availability of civilian hospitals nearby, along with the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

A spokesman for the 375th Medical Group was not immediately available for comment.

Also reviewed will be providers and facilities aligned with TRI-CARE, the military health-care program for uniformed military, their families and retirees. Worldwide, TRI-CARE serves 9.6 million beneficiaries annually and operates on a budget of $50 billion.

When the review is completed, Hagel will receive recommendations on areas for improvement, with a focus on areas where the department can improve access, safety and quality of care, according to Army Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson, a Hagel spokeswoman.

"Obviously, we're not going to visit a private physician," Wilkinson said. "Part of it is access to care. How long does it take someone to get an appointment? What are the process and procedures if you need to be referred for specialty treatment?"

Hagel will hold public forums on health-care in California, Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia and England.

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