Würzburg Army Hospital begins its gradual conversion to a clinic
May 5, 2006
WüRZBURG, Germany — Citing a shrinking military population, U.S. Army Europe officials announced Thursday the Würzburg Army Hospital will stop providing a variety of emergency and inpatient services this summer.
The hospital — in American hands since 1945 and currently staffed to handle 15 occupied beds — will convert to a cliniclike facility, according to a release sent out by hospital officials. Patients will still be able to use the hospital for some outpatient appointments, but many services will end June 30.
Along with emergency needs, orthopedics, podiatry, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and ear, nose and throat clinics will also close by the end of June, as will the operating room. The emergency room will temporarily convert to an urgent care clinic in June, but will be shut down by mid-July. The last woman in labor will be admitted to the family care center on June 23.
Patients who come to the hospital’s emergency room as of July 1 will be directed to nearby German hospitals for their most pressing medical needs, said Col. Dallas Homas, hospital commander.
“We’re not abandoning them,” he said in a telephone interview. “I want people to feel at ease with this.”
Maps will be available outside the hospital’s doors to guide patients to the local medical facilities in the event of an emergency, he said.
“There will be people showing up at night, and the lights are out,” Homas said. “And boom, there’s this box with an info sheet and a map.”
The hospital’s services might end even sooner, if its main unit, the 67th Combat Support Hospital, is needed for any emergencies elsewhere on the globe, he said.
To offset the adjustment for the American military community, hospital staff are offering tours of German hospitals every Thursday at 2 p.m., and American officials will be available to help patients find doctors and schedule appointments in town.
In most cases, German medical providers will not require upfront payment at the time of service, hospital spokeswoman Amy Stover wrote Thursday in an e-mail.
The Missionsärztliche Klinik, across the street from the hospital, will be recommended for adult emergencies, while the nearby Kinderklinik am Mönchberg should be used for pediatric emergencies, according hospital officials.
The end of hospital services is a result of this summer’s departure of the 1st Infantry Division from Leighton Barracks, along with the general drawdown of the area through transformation, Homas said.
The hospital serves many American communities, from Kitzingen, Schweinfurt and Giebelstadt to Grafenwöhr and Vilseck. Homas said most patients who live farther away from the hospital, such as those in Grafenwöhr, usually go to local German hospitals for their medical needs.
The Würzburg hospital also staffs clinics throughout the area, but two of those clinics — in Giebelstadt and Kitzingen — are slated to close at the same time this summer, Homas said. Those bases are emptying out as part of the plan to cede the facilities back to German authorities.
Homas said the population served in the area around Würzburg — including Kitzingen and Giebelstadt — has about 4,000 Tricare beneficiaries, although that number will fall to 1,500 as transformation continues this summer.
About 100 U.S. civilian and local national hospital employees are in the process of being moved to new jobs or let go, Homas said.
“We’re working our way through that,” he said. “Some move to different areas of the footprint, others will lose their jobs.”
U.S. military retirees should not be affected too much by the end of some hospital services, Homas said. “They’re pretty comfortable with living in Germany,” he said. “A lot of them already seek their care downtown.”
Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Billy Barber, who heads the Würzburg Retiree Council, said that area retirees have been kept up to date on the impending closures, but many older retirees still rely on the American hospital’s services.
“They’ve been so used to depending on the military hospital that it’s a habit for them,” Barber said. “If they’re not prepared for it, God help them, because they’ve been told.”
The timeline ...
Timeline for reduction of services at the Würzburg Army Hospital
June 19-July 16: The emergency room will convert to an urgent care clinic. The clinic will be open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
June 23: The hospital’s family care clinic will stop accepting mothers in labor on June 23.
June 30: The operating room and medical surgical inpatient ward will close. The orthopedics, podiatry, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and ear, nose and throat clinics will also close. The Kitzingen and Giebelstadt health clinics will close.
July 18: The family practice clinic, on the hospital’s third floor, will operate extended hours starting July 18. The clinic will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and training holidays. It will be closed Sundays.
For more information, call DSN 350-3666 or 0931-804-3666.