PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — If you think getting a doctor appointment is difficult now — just wait.
The Defense Department is currently planning to eliminate about 18,000 uniformed medical personnel, about 20% of staff, beginning in October.
The positions include doctors, dentists, nurses, technicians, medics and support personnel.
What the DOD is not saying is who will replace them or what military families will do.
The cuts are part of the 2020 fiscal budget which would start in October. So what does that mean for Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Langley Hospital and clinics like Boone?
The Military Officers Association of America is concerned.
Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley, director of Government & Health Affairs for MOAA said, “That’s one of the main things we are concerned about is access to care, timely access to care for, in this case, military families who certainly in those heavily concentrated active duty areas. There may not be the civilian network capacity to take care of all of them.”
“There may not be the civilian network capacity to take care of all of them,” she said.
And what about the civilians who may already find it difficult to get an appointment?
The DOD’s goal in eliminating medical positions is to streamline the military health system. Their mission is war fighting, and this is an effort to provide more effective and efficient care, on battlefields and through military treatment facilities.
What they are not saying is how will it affect troops, families and retirees.
10 On Your Side reached out to the DOD and have heard nothing. As far as Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Boone clinic are concerned, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery said they have “no specific finalized information they can share at this time.”
But think about what you need for military readiness and what you don’t.
Cpt. Beasley told WAVY.com, “We can estimate that the specialties of pediatrics and obstetrics, we have been told will be specialties that will be reduced probably the most.”
In fact, Congresswoman Elaine Luria’s office told 10 On Your Side that when Langley Air Force Hospital announced they would stop accepting new OB/GYN patients this spring in anticipation of closing their maternity ward, Luria challenged the Air Force leadership and the Air Force decided to keep the maternity ward open.
But for how long?
“I am concerned about the Department of Defense’s lack of transparency and consultation with Congress on their proposed cuts to thousands of uniformed medical position,” said Senator Mark Warner. “That is why I am currently requesting more information from the Department of Defense
and the services on their proposal and how they will ensure that it does not negatively impact health care quality or access for our service members
and their families.”
Senator Tim Kaine responded, “I am closely monitoring the proposed changes to military medicine to see if they would adversely impact military
families’ care. I will be working closely with the Department of Defense and Senate Armed Services Committee to ensure that military families get the care they need. Service members and their loved ones make great sacrifices for our nation and they deserve our full support.”
MOAA agrees, and is concerned that if families are not taken care of at home, worried service members won’t be fully focused on their missions.
The House Armed Services Committee recently voted for a measure to tell the DOD to make no cuts or other changes to medical personnel until they study the impact.
The full House is expected to vote Friday, and then the Senate must take up the issue and vote.
In the meantime, MOAA encourages people to reach out to their members of Congress.