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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Soldiers and dependents are misinformed if they think medical services are lacking in Area I, says the 2nd Infantry Division’s top doctor.

On Monday, surgeon Lt. Col. John Garr dismissed concerns about long waiting times and shortages of obstetricians-gynecologists and oral surgeons in Area I, an issue raised at the Army Family Action Plan Conference at Camp Casey last month.

A conference work group on health issues complained of long waiting times for some health services and recommended all health providers in the 2nd Infantry Division train to give pap smears.

Garr said many of the group’s complaints did not stack up.

For example, the group said all providers should be trained to give pap smears — and Garr said they already are.

“The number of providers in Area I who can do pap exams is 100 percent,” he said.

Maj. Susan Halliday, Area I’s only midwife, said concerns about gynecological care might reflect a desire for more female providers.

Only three female health professionals give pap smear tests in Area I, she said.

“The ratio of men to women in Area I means that the last thing women want is to be exposed to a male provider” of pap smear exams, she said Monday.

Halliday recently volunteered her free time to do pap exams at a Saturday clinic but only five women have showed up, suggesting most women in Area I did not know about the clinic, she said.

The health work group also voiced concerns about only one obstetrician being assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. One soldier’s spouse said she had heard of pregnant women forced to return to the United States for care.

Garr said he was unaware of any cases in which this had happened, although the Army recommends high-risk pregnancies be cared for in the States.

Two oral surgeons treat servicemembers in South Korea, twice as many as claimed by the health work group, he said.

Average wait time to see an oral surgeon “is 4.7 to 5 days,” he said.

A waiting time of up to five months, reported by the health issues work group, might arise only in cases of elective surgery, Garr said.

“If someone wants liposuction they will wait forever here,” he said.

Other concerns from some dependents about the quality of South Korean health care are the result of misperceptions, Garr said.

The Army provides a range of health services but is unable to cater to every health need, he said. For example, patients with severe kidney stones that need to be broken up must go to a South Korean hospital. So must premature babies needing neonatal intensive care.

The South Korean medical system is, for the most part, state of the art, Garr said.

“Many Korean doctors train in the U.S. and virtually all train using U.S. textbooks,” he said. “From what I have seen, what they do for American soldiers has been impressive and sometimes heroic.”

In one case, a soldier with heat stroke received treatment at a South Korean hospital that was better than he would have received in the States, Garr said. And late last year, the surgeon said, a South Korean neurosurgeon operated on a soldier with head injuries and saved his life.

The Army contracts with South Korean hospitals to meet U.S. standards when they have U.S. patients, he said.

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