NORFOLK, Va. - The military healthcare system is changing, and that will have an impact on service members and their families in Hampton Roads.
Among the biggest changes: Management and administration of Army, Air Force and Navy hospitals and clinics are transitioning to the Defense Health Agency.
This stems from changes directed by Congress through the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act that redefined the roles of military medical departments and the Defense Health Agency (DHA).
Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency, told members of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee earlier this month that the plan is to have all facilities in the eastern region of the United States transition to DHA administration and management by October 1.
That would represent more than 50% of the military health facilities.
The remaining facilities in the United States would transition by October 2020, while overseas facilities would transition by October 2021.
"By standardizing approaches to quality management, the military health system seeks to improve health outcomes, reduce errors and allow service members and other patients to recover more quickly by reducing the incidence of hospital-based infections and other patient safety priorities," Vice Admiral Bono wrote in her prepared comments for the subcommittee.
Another change comes from an assessment of operational medical requirements. As a result, military departments plan to reduce overall uniformed medical positions.
"We are now identifying the alternative models – civilian hires, contract staff, military-civilian partnerships, or use of existing TRICARE networks – that will best meet the needs of beneficiaries. We will continue to meet all standards for timely access for our beneficiaries, and while care delivery locations may change, our commitment to provide high quality healthcare will remain steadfast," Vice Admiral Bono wrote.
In a blog post about changes in Navy medicine, Vice Admiral Forrest Faison, Navy Surgeon General and Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, said there shouldn't be any significant changes during the transition.
"If you’re a patient at a Navy facility, you’ll still continue to receive high quality medical care. As we transition MTFs to the DHA, we are, in parallel, standing up new commands, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Commands (NMRTC), at each location," Vice Admiral Faison wrote.
The changes will continue for the Navy. Navy Medicine East and West will become Medical Forces Atlantic and Pacific, respectively.