Are The Military Hospitals Serving Their Purpose?

What would you expect from a military hospital?

Superior state medical facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and high quality healthcare services – these are expected from military hospitals. Military hospitals cater to the medical and healthcare needs of the military personnel – the country’s important heroes. And they should be facilities intended for VIPs and heroes like the military.

The entire medical and health care system has been the subject of a recent review initiated by the US government in light of allegations of deaths resulting from delay in providing treatment.

Military Hospitals On Par With Private Medical Facilities
But based on findings of a recent 90-day review of the entire military’s medical and health care system serving the active-duty troops as well as their family members, and retirees, estimated at a total of about 9.6 million, the military health care facilities which included 54 hospitals, 249 dental clinics and 361 medical clinics, demonstrated performance on par with the average privately-run counterparts.

Quality Of Care And Patient Safety Questioned
The review came in as a response to a scandal over access to treatment in a hospital system managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the persistent inquiries by The New York Times on the safety and quality of military medical care.

Allegations were made against the VA since about 40 patients who may have died while awaiting care at the facility for veterans and employees falsified appointment records to cover up the delay in providing care. An initial review of 17 people who perished while awaiting appointments showed that none of said deaths could have been caused by delays in treatment.

Review Of Military Medical Facilities And Health Care Delivery System
The review found that the majority of the military medical facilities deliver health care services that are not extraordinarily excellent but just average. The review showed pockets of excellence such as extraordinary doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have shown deep dedication to the patients’ welfare, but gaps were also identified that point to the facilities needing improvement in certain areas.

In terms of military’s access to care, the hospital scored “good” but not in about one-fifth of hospitals where patients who need acute care can hardly get an appointment within 24 hours.

The review showed pockets of excellence such as extraordinary doctors, nurses and medical personnel.

Underperformance Of Military Medical Facilities
The criticism based on the review’s results is centered on the quality of care provided by most of the military hospitals. For instance, even if the mortality rates are low in these facilities, cases where babies get injured during child birth and mothers suffer hemorrhages after giving birth as opposed to private or civilian hospitals.

Streamlining The Military Hospital System
What the review did not address, however, was the government’s continuing efforts to streamline the military hospital system as a way to save money sacrificing certain important aspects in the operation of the facilities including employment of qualified medical workers and reducing risks to patients.

Pentagon has been pushing to convert at least eight underused hospitals into outpatient clinics but not without political resistance. The situation may be compared to the same streamlining efforts earlier made by the government on military assets through budget cuts which eventually led to significant inadequacy in various military equipment and supplies including spare parts such as a high torque low speed electric motor which is used in different military applications.

Directives Issued By Defense Secretary
Based on the review findings, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel has directed the military medical officials to prepare a detailed plan by year end – to fix and track the performance of the military hospitals or facilities. Hagel also made specific directives to the armed services head to improve:

  • the system expected of their hospitals
  • access to treatment
  • quality of care
  • patient safety

Hagel gave underperforming hospitals and clinics four to six weeks to show their plan on addressing the shortcomings.

Defense Secretary Hagel orders leadership in all US military hospitals and medical facilities to address the problems that beset the entire military health care delivery system.

In defense of the military hospitals, Bob Work, the Deputy Defense Secretary noted that no single hospital was identified as below standard. He said that the existing military facilities are good in one area but lacking in other aspects. No hospital was found to be unsafe.

What's your opinion on this?



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