Wanting to see firsthand the unique health care model that is making a buzz at the regional and U.S. Army Medical Command levels, Lt. Gen. Nadja West, 44th U.S. Army surgeon general and MEDCOM commanding general, made her first visit to Fort Drum on May 10-11, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker, MEDCOM senior enlisted adviser. The command team had a chance to witness how the Fort Drum medical model meets the Army's No. 1 priority – readiness.
During the visit – led by Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, and Col. John McMurray, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity - Fort Drum commander – the group toured Carthage Area Hospital, Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown and medical treatment facilities on Fort Drum to include Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic and the Troop Medical Center complex.
The Fort Drum model of care is different from most Army installations, as there is no on-post hospital. The “blended” health care model relies on the local network to provide many referral services (approximately 26,000 appointments per year) and leverages three key external resource-sharing agreements that support readiness – most notably, the OB/GYN clinic at Samaritan Medical Center, the orthopedic / muscular skeletal program at Carthage Area Hospital and behavioral health / post-traumatic stress disorder services at River Hospital in Alexandria Bay.
This blended system enables enhanced specialty service access for both the military and civilian community.
While touring the hospitals, the group was joined briefly by U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, 21st Congressional District of New York, and they met with the respective CEOs and board members of each institution.
Richard Duvall, Carthage Area Hospital CEO, explained that the partnership with Fort Drum enhances the services offered to Soldiers and military Family Members as they continually improve and expand needed services and technologies.
“We have always been ready, willing and able to build out our capacity to meet the needs of Fort Drum, because we feel that it is so important to serve our military,” Duvall said. “The majority of the folks (here) have some kind of personal connection to Fort Drum, and we don’t view it as ‘us versus them’ – we are one community.”
Thomas Carman, Samaritan Medical Center CEO, focused on the presence of the Fort Drum OB/GYN clinic at the hospital and how the program maximizes available services and convenience for expectant mothers.
Both Duvall and Carman emphasized that the effective communication and collaboration among local medical community members and Fort Drum leaders has improved the readiness capabilities of Soldiers on all fronts.
After the hospital tours, the group moved to Fort Drum, where members toured medical treatment facilities (MTFs) and sat down with leaders from across the installation to discuss health care delivery and expectations.
The MTFs support real-time readiness requirements for 15,000 Soldiers at three primary medical treatment clinics, as well as 12,000 Family Members and retirees at Guthrie, and they maintain National Defense Authorization Act requirements for access to care (less than a day for acute, within seven days for follow-ups).
At the end of their visit, West and Ecker hosted a town hall for the MEDDAC team, which was held in the Multipurpose Auditorium. They spent time answering questions posed by staff members, talking about the “wonderful” job that Fort Drum MEDDAC is doing to provide top-notch health care, and the importance of Army medicine when it comes to Soldier readiness. After the town hall was over, they hung back to meet those who attended and to snap a few selfies.
“I think (this model) is fantastic,” West said. “It’s really heartening to see the great relationship and co-dependence with the community. … The community really supports their military, their Army, and that (has) manifested here up close and personal.
“It’s a phenomenal model that I think we can definitely learn a lot from,” she added.