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Home : News : News
NEWS | Oct. 2, 2018

Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Urgent Care levels up; ER re-opens

By Daniel J. Calderón 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

The 59th Medical Wing’s Urgent Care Clinic transitioned to a Family Emergency Center Oct. 1 at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The FEC will provide 24-hour emergency care to all TRICARE beneficiaries in the San Antonio area who would have been previously transferred to local facilities.

“This is part of our mission of further integrating into the healthcare system in San Antonio while taking care of more healthcare needs for our beneficiary population,” said Maj. Gen. John J. DeGoes, 59th MDW commander. “In partnership with Brooke Army Medical Center, which is level one trauma, our new family emergency center will be equivalent of a level four emergency room and will offer increased services and care to patients on this side of town.”


Previously, nearly 50 percent of patients were sent to a higher level of care facilities from the UCC.  With the capabilities of the FEC, about five percent of patients are expected to need transfer.


“The Family Emergency Center is staffed 24/7 by an emergency physician along with primary care support providers,” said Col. Robert Bogart, 59th Medical Operations Group commander. “Our expanded capabilities include pediatric and geriatric care, full-time ancillary services with pharmacy, lab radiology support, and a wide variety of procedural interventions.”


To improve patient-centered care, the UCC developed new processes that reduced patient wait times by more than 50 percent in the past six months and the FEC will continue those efficiencies.


“Patients will be triages based on their acuity, meaning emergent patients will be immediately seen,” Bogart said. “During daytime hours, a fast-track service facilitates quick processing of patients with lower level medical needs.”


On average, the acute care flight sees 90-100 patients each day. Providers in the FEC will now be able to support patients of all ages, providing more in house treatment than the UCC.  


“If the workup doesn’t involve the requirement to admit the patient to a hospital, then we can treat accordingly and discharge them with a follow up appointment with one of our Primary Care Managers,” said Maj. Melissa Runge, Acute Care Flight commander. “We still will not have inpatient services, but we’ll be able to take care of a wide variety of medical problems that we weren’t able support as an urgent care.”


In order to prepare for the transition, the acute care flight has increased its staffing with emergency medicine physicians as well as ER-trained nurses. All staff members received additional training to increase capabilities to support the medical issues patients will bring in. 


“We have done an extensive amount of training to prepare to become an emergency room,” Runge said. “One of the biggest things we’ve done is a skills fair. That was a two-day event involving about 30 different stations where all of our medical technicians, nurses, and mid-level providers attended and received additional training on different types of procedures or medical treatments that they weren’t familiar with or maybe that they needed to brush up on because it’s not something that they would do here every day.”


Among the skills learned during the skills fair, and at other training events throughout the year, were how to put in a chest tube, use a central line and deliver a baby in an emergency situation. In partnership with the simulation lab, mock patients were brought in throughout the year creating emergency hands-on training scenarios.


“Our goal is to provide high quality, safe, patient centered care in a timely fashion,” Bogart said. “The best place for routine and acute healthcare is your primary care team, however, if you require an outpatient ER, Wilford Hall’s Family Emergency Center is your ER.”