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Leaders come together to rehearse military healthcare transition

Leaders from across the Department of Defense, the Army and Fort Bragg meet at U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters July 19, 2018, to discuss the upcoming transition of the administration and management of Womack Army Medical Center from the U.S. Army Medical Command to the Defense Health Agency. (U.S. Army photo by Eve Meinhardt) Leaders from across the Department of Defense, the Army and Fort Bragg meet at U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters July 19, 2018, to discuss the upcoming transition of the administration and management of Womack Army Medical Center from the U.S. Army Medical Command to the Defense Health Agency. (U.S. Army photo by Eve Meinhardt)

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Leaders from across the Department of Defense, the Army and Fort Bragg came together July 17 through 19 to discuss the upcoming transition of the administration and management of Womack Army Medical Center from the U.S. Army Medical Command to the Defense Health Agency.

On Oct. 1, DHA will assume policy oversight of all military treatment facilities. However, as part of a deliberate effort to identify the best way forward, only five military treatment facilities will transition to full administration and management by DHA in the initial phase. Womack Army Medical Center will be the first Army military treatment facility to completely move under the DHA control, along with three Air Force medical groups and Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida.

Army Gen. Robert B. "Abe" Abrams, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, highlighted the importance of working together to ensure that the transition is invisible to patients receiving treatment anywhere on Fort Bragg and that it does not impact Army readiness.

"There should be zero impact on delivery of medical services that support readiness of the force," Abrams said. "That has to be the number one driving consideration — what's best for readiness of the force in terms of implementation."

The commander of Womack Army Medical Center, Army Col. John J. Melton, said that everyone on his staff is focused on a successful transition.

"For our Soldiers, veterans, retirees and Family members that we serve, this transition will be transparent," Melton said. "The delivery of safe, quality and accessible care is foundational in our profession. We will continue to honor our Nation's sacred trust to care for those that wear and have worn the uniform and their Families."

The rehearsal of concept drill at U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters was coordinated by numerous staff agencies — including the FORSCOM G-3 and Surgeon's Offices. The drill's topics covered numerous scenarios giving Fort Bragg leaders the opportunity to consider and prepare for potential budget, readiness, infrastructure, legal and most importantly, healthcare delivery issues. Throughout the exercise, key leaders were presented with multiple scenarios to identify potential friction points and how to solve them.

"We're here to set a strategic foundation for Womack as the first of our medical treatment facilities to transfer, but also to establish the pathway for the remaining medical treatment facilities in the U.S. Army to transfer over to the DHA over the next two to three years," said Kathy Miller, assistant deputy chief of staff, U.S. Army G-3/5/7. "The work we do here is laying the foundation for the future."

The transfer of authority is part of a Congressional mandate under the National Defense Authorization Act to centralize the administration of all military treatment facilities to better focus on readiness, create a common high-quality experience for patients and eliminate redundancies. While DHA will manage healthcare delivery at the military treatment facilities, the individual service medical commands will still maintain responsibility and authority over readiness functions to include deployment-related functions, embedded behavioral health, medical logistics, dental, public health, veterinary services and installation emergency response.

"We are all onboard," said Army Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Army Surgeon General and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command. "It's important to do this and to get it right. It's about making sure that we're continuing to take care of Soldiers and their Families."

Melton said that no matter what, Womack Army Medical Center is going to continue to focus on providing quality healthcare and maintaining the readiness of the force.

"Readiness of the forces remains our number one priority," he said. "We are charged with ensuring that every Soldier is physically and cognitively 'ready to fight tonight' – and proficient in their respective critical medical wartime skills. We will continue to build and sustain readiness for the operations force. This will not change come 1 October."

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