Lakenheath patients air concerns in DOD health care survey

Officials conducting a militarywide review of health care selected the 48th Medical Group, based at RAF Lakenheath, England, for their survey. The medical group serves more than 35,000 patients in England and Norway.


By ADAM L. MATHIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2014

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A doctor with the 48th Medical Group complained of “whining” patients. Doctors don’t communicate among themselves. Doctors are overly conservative in treating ailments.

These are some of the complaints patients made about their medical care at a Tuesday town hall meeting on RAF Lakenheath, England. Officials hosted the meeting as part of a survey of seven military hospitals to gather data for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s 90-day review of the health care system. The 48th Medical Group is the only overseas facility in the survey.

Not all comments about the medical group, which oversees care for more than 35,000 patients in England and Norway, were negative. Some of the 50-odd people who attended the meeting said they were happy with the timeliness of the care they received, the ease with which referrals could be gotten and the willingness of officials to explain prescribed treatment. The overall attitude during the meeting was mixed, some participants told a Stars and Stripes reporter, who attended the town hall but was not permitted to report during it.

Master Sgt. Chris Valgardson, with the 48th Communications Squadron, has received mixed quality of care from the medical group. When he first came to Lakenheath, he had “the best doctor in my life,” Valgardson said, but that particular doctor changed stations. He said he then fell under the care of doctors who did not seem to care about his well-being.

“They just didn’t care,” Valgardson told Stripes after the meeting. The attitude of the doctors was, “if it wasn’t bleeding, then you’re wasting my time.”

But Valgardson said that his care has improved and that his current doctor now is pushing for him to get treatments for issues that were passed over during the period of what he described as poor care.

The other hospitals under review are Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington state; Naval Medical Center San Diego, California; U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Clinic, Colorado; Winn Army Community Hospital, Georgia; Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Virginia; and Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River, Maryland. About 550 people have attended the patient town hall meetings, according to the Defense Department.

A request to speak to an official from the medical group was declined by Lakenheath public affairs, which cited the ongoing review.

Officials with the militarywide health care review are not releasing any information from the hospitals they have visited before the 90-day deadline Hagel set at the end of May, said Maj. James Brindle, a Defense Department spokesman who handles health care matters.

Hagel ordered the review to focus on access to care, quality and safety, but information about how officials are assessing each hospital in these areas was not available.

The visits to the seven hospitals are scheduled to conclude this week after officials return to Naval Medical Center San Diego on Friday for a second town hall meeting open to patients. No patients attended the first town hall meeting, a spokesman for the medical center said, noting a problem in publicizing the event.

Twitter: @AMathisStripes


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