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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea

For sailors and their families needing off-post medical care near Chinhae Naval Base, the trip just got a little shorter.

On Nov. 27, the Masan Samsung Hospital became the 25th civilian medical facility in South Korea to forge an agreement allowing base personnel to use their services.

Before the agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, people in the Chinhae community whose needs could not be met at the base’s small clinic, had to go to Busan.

“The trip from Chinhae to Busan is a lot like the trip from Uijeongbu to Seoul,” said U.S. Forces Korea command surgeon and commander of 18th Medical Command Col. James Jolissaint.

“It’s an expedition.”

Jolissaint said the new memorandum of understanding was the result of U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell’s emphasis on taking care of command- and non-command-sponsored families.

When visiting bases on the peninsula, Bell frequently poses the question: “Is this the same as Yongsan?” Jolissaint said.

He added that Bell’s rule of thumb is he wanted servicemembers at all installations to have access to the same services they would have at Yongsan Garrison — headquarters for USFK in Seoul.

Before the agreement with the hospital, if servicemembers went to an off-post medical care provider in the Chinhae area, they would have to pay the bill out-of-pocket.

“In Gen. Bell’s mind — and in my mind — that’s unacceptable,” said Jolissaint.

As with other hospitals under agreement with the U.S. military, Masan Samsung will meet certain requirements.

Among those are providing 24-hour access to English-speaking liaisons, prescribing only medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and providing necessary documentation to TriCare to process insurance claims.

TriCare Standard customers will only be charged their co-payments at the hospital, and TriCare Prime customers will not be charged at all.

The agreement with the hospital is different from others in South Korea, because it had to be approved and signed in Japan.

While Jolissaint and his staff negotiated the agreement, the commander of the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Capt. M.J. Krentz, was the authority who signed it.

Jolissaint said that was because the Navy hospital is the Chinhae medical clinic’s parent organization.

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