WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Big changes to the future of military medicine in southeastern North Carolina kicked off Wednesday.
Area military hospitals and clinics have been officially transferred to the Defense Health Agency, to establish the Coastal North Carolina market.
The market covers 170,000 military beneficiaries across the coast, and is the 18th market of its kind the Defense Health Agency has set up.
“A market is a group of hospitals and clinics in one geographic area working together with its TRICARE partners, Veterans Affairs hospitals, other federal health care organizations, private sector teaching hospitals and medical universities, and other health care partners,” explained a release from Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune.
The transfer of the clinics to the Defense Health Agency allows all of the providers in the market to better care for servicemembers and better communicate. It will also make it easier for them to recruit staff, improve the hospitals and grow specialties like mental health and sports medicine services.
Officials say people wont see any major changes or be forced to change their doctors, but they might see more efficiencies.
“If there’s gonna be a change it’s gonna be a change for the better, where we have improved consultative capabilities so that we are able to get patients in either virtually or in real time, to appointments in an even faster way,” said Defense Health Agency assistant director Dr. Brian Lein.
Anyone can understand how important the announcement is for retired veterans, or military families that live on the fringe, in areas of Pender and northern New Hanover counties, but this new market also has partnerships with hospitals like NHRMC to share resources and work together in emergencies.
It’s a model that helps all of the communities that surround military bases as a whole, especially as COVID-19 stretches the healthcare systems to its limits.
“The partnerships we have with Onslow, with Vidant, with New Hanover Regional Medical Center, as far away as Fayetteville VA, for anyone who’s otherwise eligible for care here. If we can transfer those patients from their facilities to our facility to allow them to take care of more critical patients, that is a daily, if not multiple times a day, conversation that we have not only with EMS, but also with the senior leadership of those facilities,” said Coastal North Carolina Market Director Captain Reginald Ewing.
COVID-19 slowed this transition down, but leaders say once the pandemic lifts, people will begin to see more positive changes.
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