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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A network of Army medical clinics, mobile health specialists and patient liaisons at German hospitals is filling the gap left by closure of Würzburg Army Community Hospital’s inpatient services in June, health officials say.

Maj. Timothy Caffrey, commander of the Grafenwöhr Health Clinic, told a recent town hall meeting at Grafenwöhr about the Army clinic network in Bavaria, which includes clinics at Bamberg, Schweinfurt, Würzburg, Grafenwöhr, Vilseck, Hohenfels and Katterbach.

Caffrey said last Wednesday that the clinics, which do not have facilities to keep patients overnight, share specialists, including a dermatologist, internal medicine specialist, pediatrician and physical therapist, who were based at Würzburg.

“On a regular basis they come into my area to see my patients. It allows us to share specialists across Bavaria rather than have patients drive three hours or more (to get to Würzburg),” he said.

The network of clinics is consistent with U.S. trends to take care of more patients at home, Caffrey said.

“We are trying to do that because more and more care can be provided in an outpatient setting. When hospital care is needed we have that available,” he added.

The Bavarian clinics will send patients to German hospitals more often now that Würzburg’s inpatient services are closed, said Phil Tegmeier, Europe Region Medical Command public affairs officer.

At Grafenwöhr, patients have been using German hospitals regularly since the Army closed its Nuremberg hospital in 1993, he said.

Using German hospitals more has advantages, Caffrey said.

“The German hospital system is more robust in terms of sub-specialties than Würzburg was. There is a broader range of these sub-specialties half an hour away (from Grafenwöhr) than there was three hours away at Würzburg,” he said.

Tegmeier said German hospitals are putting up posters informing American patients about patient liaisons.

“They are people who are bilingual, whose job it is to address the issue that some people have when they get into hospital — communication. They can serve as an intermediary between the patient and hospital staff. Patient liaisons visit patients in hospital and will ask them if they have any concerns and if they want them to talk to the staff,” he said.

Alexandra Haehnlein, chief secretary for internal medicine and anesthesia at Eschenbach hospital, said all hospital staff members have a basic knowledge of English and patient liaisons visit whenever Americans stay there. Eschenbach hospital, along with Weiden hospital, treats many Americans from Grafenwöhr.

Haehnlein said the hospital will not turn anyone away but added that Americans might be asked to pay upfront for medical treatment because the hospital does not have agreements with U.S. health insurers.

Jeri Chappelle, Europe Regional Medical Command public affairs chief, said the downsizing at Würzburg was based on the departure of a significant number of 1st Infantry Division soldiers and their units from the Würzburg Hospital’s health care management area and the decision to place medical specialists at locations where their skills can best be used.

“Würzburg no longer offers any inpatient service that requires admission to the hospital, major surgical procedures, labor and delivery services, and obstetrical care for mothers and any procedure that requires anesthesia,” she said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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