Despite the recent drawdown of medical personnel and services in Gaeta, Italy, families should see no delays in getting a doctor’s appointment at the clinic, officials say.

“In a nutshell, because of the population decrease, we don’t need as many doctors,” Cmdr. Janelle Merritt, officer in charge of the clinic, said in a telephone interview.

On Feb. 10, Gaeta became a detachment of Naval Support Activity Naples instead of its own self-supporting command, and much of the personnel shifted to the main Navy base in Naples, more than an hour’s drive away. As a result, the clinic’s estimated number of patients dropped from 2,000 to 700, and the facility now has just one family practice physician. However, in spite of the decrease in patients, appointments will be at a premium, Merritt said, and she urged patients to keep their appointments and show up on time.

Gaeta’s main mission to provide a homeport for the Navy’s 6th Fleet flagship, the USS Mount Whitney, remains unchanged, and as such, the Navy is providing core services such as medical, housing and education.

With the Gaeta clinic continuing to provide medical services, the main hospital at the Naval Support Activity support site “has ample services available to support all of the health care needs of the Gaeta community,” hospital spokesman Senior Chief Petty Officer David Lilley said.

Gaeta has lost its radiology technician, so patients who need X-rays can get them in one of three ways:

For nonurgent or chronic medical problems, X-rays will be done at the Naples support site facility;For emergencies or trauma injuries, get X-rays at an Italian hospital, preferably the main hospital in Formia, for orthopedic concerns, Merritt said. A health benefits adviser will help, from filing proper insurance paperwork, if applicable, to translation services. When possible, patients should report to the base clinic the following business day for follow-ups.For urgent but not emergency X-rays, patients must get a referral, written in English and Italian and signed by a Navy doctor and then go to an Italian hospital.Only Tricare Overseas Prime patients are covered for costs upfront, Merritt warned. Others, including retirees, school employees and Tricare Standard patients, must pay fees upfront and seek reimbursement. Gaeta has a Tricare service representative who can enroll patients there and answer billing questions, Merritt said.

Dental care, since last summer, has been provided at the support site hospital near Naples. While prenatal care still is provided at the Gaeta clinic, deliveries are taking place at the Naples hospital.

The Gaeta clinic is open from 8 to 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Thursday afternoons, when it’s closed for training.

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