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Naval Hospital Bremerton will close ER, ICU

BREMERTON — Naval Hospital Bremerton isn’t closing, but significant changes are in store.

Adapting to patient trends, the facility overlooking Ostrich Bay plans to retire its emergency department and intensive care unit next year. It also will begin phasing out its family medicine training program.

Rumors emerged weeks ago that the Navy intended to shut down the whole place.

“We are not closing our hospital nor are we discontinuing services,” said Capt. Christopher Quarles, the commanding officer.

The changes are the result of a recent Navy that evaluated patient needs at nine treatment facilities across the country. It showed advancements in clinical care and technology fueling a shift from inpatient to outpatient services. The Navy is responding by adjusting hospital staff and services accordingly.

The Naval Hospital Bremerton emergency room attracts few customers. When they do visit, they usually don’t have life-, limb- or eyesight-threatening injuries, said hospital spokesman Douglas Stutz. They’ll come in, for example, with sprains or strains from athletic events, or with the flu at 2 a.m. Most can be handled at an urgent care center, to which the emergency department will convert by September. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“When it’s after hours or on the weekend and someone’s regular health care provider isn’t available, our urgent care clinic is here to handle our patient’s needs,” Quarles said.

The patients who truly need emergency care will be transferred via ambulance to Harrison Medical Center. Harrison officials, who couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, have been working with the Navy on the transition, Stutz said.

The intensive care unit will close in June because it, too, receives little patient demand.

“We just don’t get that many very sick people who need constant monitoring,” Stutz said.

Those who do will be referred to Harrison or another hospital.

Naval Hospital Bremerton is realigning its resources to most efficiently use them. The changes aren’t related to ongoing military budget struggles.

“It has nothing to do with any kind of government shutdown, sequestration, furlough, nothing like that at all,” Stutz said.

The command’s family medicine graduate education program will be phased out, with residents redistributed to other treatment facilities through 2016.

More than 29,000 active-duty service members, retirees and their families are enrolled at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

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