By Senior Airman Jessica H. Smith, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2017
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The 366th Medical Group at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, will soon begin to make what some may see as drastic changes to the services provided here. The facility will transition from an inpatient hospital to an outpatient clinic by mid-summer.
“This decision was actually made approximately 17 years ago; it was contingent upon the local hospital becoming civilian accredited by the Joint Commission,” said Col. Andrew Moore, 366th Medical Group commander. “That happened two years ago, and when it happened, we started the process to look at services in our base hospital with regard to what is in the best interest of our patients and the mission.”
Due to manpower limitations, the changes will be made in stages, beginning with internal medicine being removed in early June and ending with the removal of surgical services in mid-July, Moore explained.
Once the services of general surgery, obstetrics, and internal medicine are no longer available and the ability to admit patients to the hospital is gone, the facility will complete the transition to an outpatient clinic.
While the base facility will have a phased transition, St. Luke’s of Elmore County is currently making changes for the expected growth and increase of responsibilities. Their transparent growth plan began with expanding and modernizing the emergency department. Next will be obstetrical care, to include updating birthing suites and recruitment of obstetricians, pediatricians and additional nursing staff.
Despite it being a small facility, St. Luke’s already offers obstetrical care and delivers more babies than the base hospital. Although babies will no longer be delivered on base, prenatal care will still be offered as well as other women’s health services. Once a pregnancy is confirmed patients will be provided with a complete list of network providers in the greater Mountain Home and Boise areas.
This means patients will actually have more options than they did before. Boise residents can choose a location closer to home if desired.
“It’s a good thing,” said 2nd Lt. Jaime Hollingsworth, 366th MDG Tricare operations and patient administration flight commander. “We are continuing to ensure that we are providing the safest possible care for our patients – and the best possible care.”
It’s a win-win, Moore agreed. Patients receive safety, quality and choice.
For those worried about Tricare coverage, rest assured, no changes are necessary. Coverage and benefits remain the same just with a little bit more freedom, Hollingsworth explained. Nobody is required to change from prime to standard due to the transition.
Not only is this change good for the local community, but also benefits the Air Force in two major ways.
Everything on the base is here for military readiness posturing, explained Moore.
“From a medical standpoint, it’s just like having pilots flying fighters to be proficient in their warfare skills,” he said, “It’s the same with my surgeons – I need my surgeons doing operative cases to maintain currency and they just don’t do that here; we don’t have the volume or acuity of patients.”
The transition from an inpatient hospital to an outpatient clinic allows surgeons, physicians, nurses and technicians to be sent to other facilities with bigger caseloads, better utilizing personnel and allowing service members to be more efficient and mission ready.
Additionally, it saves the Air Force money.
“It’s about six-times as expensive for the Air Force to continue doing surgical cases here as it would be to put it on the Tricare network,” Moore explained. “As a commander and taxpayer, I want that money better utilized elsewhere in my Air Force.”
While these three services are being removed, all others will remain in place – including the Urgent Care Center.
“We will continue to offer 24/7 urgent care,” Hollingsworth assured.
The UCC is plugged into the greater Idaho emergency system, Moore explained.
“Even if the worst possible thing happens on this base – a really bad trauma – we have a robust air ambulance system, a robust trauma network … we have Air Force paramedics which can stabilize our patients and get them to where they need to go,” he said.
Although the transition alters services provided on base, the MDG has purposefully looked at the timing of the facility remodel to ensure floor space is preprogrammed to add primary care capability in the event of a larger base population needing more medical teams in the future.
“Working with our civilian medical counterparts on patient safety initiatives and mutually beneficial growth of medical capabilities in the town of Mountain Home has been one of the highlights of my tour,” Moore said. “Mike Blauer, the CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital in Mountain Home, and his team could not have been more gracious or accommodating in supporting our military beneficiaries’ current and future medical needs. Similarly, I am very appreciative of the St. Alphonsus team’s effort to assist with clinical currency initiatives for our medics.”
For a list of services still being provided on base, please visit the link below where you can also find FAQs.