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San Antonio Military Health System adjusts services, offers options to continue care

By 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | March 19, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

The San Antonio Military Health System is making several precautionary adjustments to services to help mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and ensure healthcare professionals and resources are poised to support an increased need for acute patient care.

Patients should expect to see the following changes:

  • Temporary suspense of in-person routine care
  • Delayed elective surgeries
  • Prescription curbside pick-up and delivery and streamlined drop-off procedures (varies by location)
  • Dining Facility, AAFES and food court closures in medical facilities
  • COVID-19 drive-thru screening (BAMC and WHASC)
  • Patient visitation guidance

Clinics began proactively reviewing their schedules to make as many appointments virtual as possible. Affected patients will receive a call from the clinic to reschedule procedures or be treated via telehealth. Beginning March 18, patients will also be able to book virtual appointments directly using the appointment line.

“We are doing everything we can to continue providing high-reliability care to our beneficiaries in new ways while preserving the health of our community and the resources that may be needed if the virus spreads,” said Maj. Gen. John J. DeGoes, 59th Medical Wing commander. “Community members can do their part by keeping updated on CDC guidelines during this time.”

Brooke Army Medical Center has implemented COVID-19 drive-thru screening procedures for patients with COVID-19 indicators, which include a fever, cough or shortness of breath; recent travel; or contact with someone who has COVID-19.

“We are taking every necessary precaution to reduce the risk and preserve the safety of our beneficiaries, visitors, family members and staff,” said Brig. Gen. Wendy Harter, BAMC commanding general.

As an additional precaution, BAMC has postponed in-person routine primary care appointments and most elective surgical procedures through the end of the month to help stay prepared to accomplish vital healthcare and readiness missions.

At end of the month, BAMC will assess if further delays are needed. This will reduce foot traffic throughout the hospital and enable healthcare staff to focus their attention on being ready in the event there is an increase in acute patient care.

To protect yourself and those around you from viruses, consider calling in before seeking care. Call the Nurse Advice Line, or NAL, or your Primary Care Manager before coming to the Family Emergency Center or Brooke Army Medical Center.

Patients and staff are being screened before entering SAMHS facilities and anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms will be directed to the family emergency center or BAMC.

The NAL for TRICARE beneficiaries is a team of registered nurses who are available 24/7 to answer a variety of urgent healthcare questions.

Visit MHSNurseAdviceLine.com for a web or video chat, or dial 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273), option 1. They can help you decide whether self-care is the best option, or if it is better to see a healthcare provider. Beneficiaries also can schedule an appointment with their PCM by calling the Consult Appointment Management Office at 210-916-9900.

“Virtual health and telephone evaluations are our preferred healthcare delivery method and we are taking full advantage of these safe, viable options,” Harter added. “To reduce risk to yourself and others, we are encouraging our beneficiaries to call in before physically coming in, using the NAL, CAMO, or secure messaging. If the patient’s symptoms are severe, they will be directed to the emergency department for evaluation.”

There are several actions the CDC recommends to prevent infection:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Close contact is defined as within 6 feet for 10 minutes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Notify supervisors and consider staying home when you are sick.
  • Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are healthy wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

For more information about virus prevention, visit https://www.cdc.gov/. For more information on COVID-19, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

In addition, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has opened a COVID-19 hotline for residents to ask questions about the virus. The hotline is available in English and Spanish.

For COVID-19 questions call 210-207-5779. The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information is also available at www.sanantonio.gov/health/2019ncoronavirus.