Area I needs more doctors, soldiers say
January 30, 2004
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — More Army doctors qualified in obstetrics and gynecology are needed in Area I due to demand from hundreds of non-command-sponsored spouses of servicemembers, soldiers say.
Long waiting lists for obstetrics and gynecology services in Area I was one of the issues raised by soldiers attending the Army Family Action Plan Conference at Camp Casey earlier this month.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Nofo, a military policeman with the 2nd Infantry Division, spoke on behalf of a workgroup that looked at health issues during the conference. Too few doctors in the area are qualified in obstetrics and gynecology, he said.
“There is only one certified midwife and this produces a backlog when it comes to appointments and there is a backlog for well-woman exams and Pap smears,” he said.
Nofo said all clinic providers should train in obstetrics and gynecology and be able to give a Pap smear, a test for cancer.
“When in-processing all women should be given the opportunity to schedule a well-woman exam,” he said.
Another concern is that only one certified oral surgeon is on staff for all servicemembers in South Korea, Nofo said.
“People are waiting five weeks to five months. We recommend they provide necessary dental services before servicemembers are deployed to Korea and increase qualified professionals to provide oral surgery services,” he said, citing the group’s report.
Victoria Erickson, a non-command-sponsored spouse whose husband, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Erickson, is serving at Camp Red Cloud, says more obstetrician-gynecologists are needed to care for an estimated 800 soldiers’ spouses living in Area I.
Erickson, the home-school field representative for Area I, estimated up to 100 women are pregnant at any one time in Area I.
“I also hear there are a lot of wives who have to go back to the U.S. if they are pregnant because the obstetrician can’t visit them,” she said.
Major Alan Ueoka, of 18th Medical Command, said in an e-mail that the Army has four “OB/GYN” physicians at the 121st General Hospital in Seoul.
“The service is busy, as deliveries of newborns are the number one reason for admission throughout most military facilities worldwide,” he said.
In South Korea, most spouses deliver their babies at the 121st General Hospital, which offers comprehensive obstetrical services, support services, staff and equipment, he said.
In a recent planning conference in the United States, the command fought for the continued staffing of the Army’s OB/GYN services in South Korea, Ueoka said.
“As a result, our services will continue to be offered in all areas of the peninsula. The Office of the Surgeon General has a process for allocating resources to ensure this service is available wherever soldiers are stationed, including South Korea,” he said.