New hires ease backlog at Yongsan hospital
Stars and Stripes May 2, 2008
SEOUL — The commander of U.S. Forces Korea’s largest hospital said hiring two new doctors and shuffling its current staff have eased an appointment backlog enough that all but new civilian patients can get appointments now.
The 121st Combat Support Hospital had been using a six-tiered system since January to determine who could get appointments because of a staffing shortage.
Patients who couldn’t get appointments had to go to South Korean doctors for medical care.
Under that system, Tricare Prime active-duty servicemembers had priority for appointments, then their families, then the families of noncommand-sponsored troops.
Hospital officials said they hoped to ease the restrictions by April.
“For the most part, we have gotten caught up,” said Col. Gregory Jolissaint, commander of 18th Medical Command at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan.
“We haven’t gotten to the point and the capacity just yet of being able to open it to everybody.”
The hospital is hiring 36 new employees who should begin working in six to eight weeks, and Jolissaint said he has asked for approval to hire another 40 staffers.
That decision should be made in about three weeks, and, if approved, would let the hospital open appointments to everybody, he said.
Because the number of troops stationed in South Korea has dropped in recent years, fewer medical personnel were assigned to 18th MEDCOM.
But staffing levels dropped faster than the hospital’s workload, causing the backlog in appointments, Jolissaint said.
“We were not even able to see the active-duty servicemembers and their family members because we were getting so far behind,” he said.
The 18th Medical Command has used the following tiered system since January to determine who gets priority for medical appointments:
1.Tricare Prime active-duty servicemembers
2.Tricare Prime active-duty family members
3.Tricare Plus noncommand-sponsored active-duty family members, and retirees who were grandfathered into the program
4.Tricare Standard active-duty family members
5.Other retirees and their family members who don’t have Tricare Plus
6.All other beneficiaries, including Department of Defense civilians, nonappropriated fund civilians and Department of Defense Dependents Schools employees