JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
After nearly a decade of planning, development and construction, the new Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland welcomed its first scheduled patient with a ribbon cutting ceremony June 7.
The 59th Medical Wing, which hosted the ceremony to commemorate the occasion, also welcomed several active and retired generals, many of whom were instrumental in the development of the new facility.
The facility’s first patient, Master Sgt. Karrin Hatcher, 344th Training Squadron logistics writer, is pregnant with her fifth child, and was there for her 8 a.m. examination appointment. In keeping with the center’s “patient-centered” philosophy, Hatcher even got to cut the ribbon for the facility as all the generals looking on.
“I’m kind of nervous, but also excited,” Hatcher said of her medical appointment. “This is the first time I’ve seen this place, but it’s very, very beautiful.”
The facility itself opens up into a three-story foyer replete with countless cushioned chairs, reception areas and other amenities, designed to provide a welcoming environment to patients like Hatcher. Although Hatcher didn’t know where her examination appointment was located, she turned to find a massive touch screen directory as soon as she stepped inside the building, along with a handful of medical personnel eager to assist.
“This is incredible,” she said.
The new Wilford Hall, costing $418 million, is a 682,000 square foot marvel that has been in the works since the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Act directed the original Wilford Hall inpatient services be moved to the San Antonio Military Medical Center. The new facility, located just across the street from the original facility, is meant to provide more efficient, patient-centered care for its next generation of beneficiaries.
Maj. Gen. Bart Iddins, 59th MDW commander, is leading the wing into that next generation.
"The Warrior Medics of the 59th Medical Wing are committed to always being ready for war, contingencies, and disasters," said Iddins. "This high level of readiness is enabled by the delivery of patient-centered health care and underpinned on the dedication of our Airmen."
After overseeing the ribbon cutting ceremony, Iddins announced, “The new Wilford Hall is officially open!”
Iddins then led a tour of the facility spanning from waiting rooms and spacious conference facilities to emergency and operating rooms already humming and beeping with brand-new medical technology.
The center’s main proponent during his service, retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis, followed Iddins closely on the tour. A former Surgeon General of the Air Force and commander of the 59th MDW from 2007 to 2010, Travis fought hard to secure funding for the project during a time of economic uncertainty and overhead transitions in Congress and the Department of Defense.
Passing from room to room, Travis inundated Iddins and his fellow dignitaries with questions about the new facility.
“It’s very rewarding and exciting to see this come out of nothing,” Travis said. “Ten years ago we were just starting to get the money to build this, and here we are, standing inside. That’s not bad. Congress was generous enough to provide the funding for a state-of-the-art replacement to a very important facility in Wilford Hall.”
The new Wilford Hall will be tasked with carrying on the legacy of the old one, Travis noted.
“There’s a great history here,” Travis said. “So many people in this (Air Force) community come up to me and tell me, ‘I was born in Wilford Hall!”
For Travis, who retired two years ago, the new center couldn’t come online a moment too soon.
“My comment’s always been from the beginning of this project that if you are old enough to talk about being born in a facility, it’s probably a little old,” Travis chuckled.
Also in attendance was retired Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton, 17th Surgeon General of the Air Force, former 59th MDW commander and founder of the Air Force Rapid Response Surgical Team. "We are delighted to turn this brick and mortar into a capability that allows us to provide outstanding medical care well into the future," Carlton said.
The 59th MDW is still in the process of relocating various clinics and services from the old Wilford Hall to the new one. Since late May when the move began, about 10 of the wing’s more than 40 departments and clinics have moved, according to information posted on the 59th MDW website.
Patients and visitors wanting to check the location and operational status of relevant clinics and departments can go on www.WilfordHallMove.com, the 59th MDW Facebook page or by calling the information desk at 210-292-7412.