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NEWS | April 8, 2019

DHA director: patient care will remain steadfast despite staff cuts

By Terri Moon Cronk

Given proposed military medical staffing reductions, the Defense Health Agency and the services are working together closely so access to care and availability of health services are consistently maintained for beneficiaries, the DHA director said on Capitol Hill April 3. 

Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) Raquel C. Bono told the Senate Appropriations Committee  that as needed, alternative staffing models, contracts, military-civilian partnerships and existing TRICARE networks will be used to best meet the needs of patients.

“We will continue to meet all standards for timely access for our beneficiaries, and while our health care delivery locations may change, our commitment to provide our patients with the high-quality health care that they deserve will remain steadfast,” she said.

Bono said that although she couldn’t speak directly to  manpower positions the services have identified to be cut, “I can speak to how we are working together to make sure that our patients continue to have the access to the care they need as well as the specialty services.”

In that regard, she said, “we’ll look at different models of either hiring, contracting or the use of our networks.”

“We’re also moving to a market-based approach to the delivery of our care, where we will share resources across all the services in geographic areas,” Bono said.

Along with the services’ surgeons general -- Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Nadja Y. West, Navy Vice Adm. (Dr.) C. Forrest Faison III and Air Force Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg -- testified on the Defense Health Program’s fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Bono emphasized that DHA exists in support of the combatant commands and the military departments, and that both Congress’ and the defense secretary’s guidance is to pursue efficiencies, create value for DOD by consolidating and standardizing military health care functions, and to support an integrated system of readiness and health.

“The DHA is honored and privileged to facilitate that integration,” Bono said. “We are a strategic enabler to the department in supporting the readiness needs of our cocoms and the military departments.”

Such efficiencies will be furthered Oct. 1 at all military treatment facilities in the eastern region of the United States, as their administration and management functions transition to the Defense Health Agency, the admiral said.

“Support for medical logistics, health facilities and acquisition will be fully managed by the military health facilities and the Military Health System by the DHA,” Bono said. “We will also prepare for the transition of the remaining facilities in the continental United States and Alaska on Oct. 1, 2020.”