Work is underway at Naval Hospital Pensacola to morph the facility’s emergency room into an Urgent Care Center as of June 1.
Hospital commander, Capt. Maureen Padden, says Navy medicine has been conducted a resource analysis the past two years – well before last year’s sequester and partial shutdown of the federal government. At issue by the Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery is just where critical resources should be placed to best serve the beneficiary population.
The ER will be converted to an urgent care center. The main reason for that, says Padden, is the relatively light volume of patients – around 60 per day – that are treated there.
“And largely, a lot of what we do in our current emergency room is still within the scope of an urgent care center,” said Capt. Padden. “The one major difference will be that we won’t be receiving ambulances.”
There are capabilities that the Naval Hospital does not have – such as neuro- and cardio-thoracic surgery, along with other highly specialized care available only at larger Navy medical centers. That’s where the area’s civilian hospitals – as Padden calls them “community partners” – can step in.
“This expands a little bit of what I’m going to have to rely on my ‘community partners’ – Sacred Heart, Baptist, West Florida, to provide. And I know that they have those capabilities,” said Padden.
All TRICARE beneficiaries will be eligible for treatment of acute care symptoms such as minor lacerations and injuries, fevers, sore throats and cough. What patients will notice the most, says hospital spokesman Jason Bortz, will be the new hours of operation.
“The urgent care center will be open seven days per week, but it will be open from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., versus the 24 hours that the emergency room’s open,” said Bortz.
A grand opening for the Urgent Care Center is set for Monday, June 2nd at 9:30 a-m. Bortz says patients will not notice anything different in the run up to the conversion.
Capt. Maureen Padden is quick to add that the cutbacks at Naval Hospital Pensacola are strictly in-house. They do not affect operations next door at the Veterans Administration Super Center. It’s a totally separate system with a separate funding stream. In fact, she says there’s a robust sharing agreement between the two that will continue.
TRICARE beneficiaries will also have the option of calling a 24/7 Nurse Advise Line – 1-800-TRICARE – Option-1. The line offers professional healthcare advice, and can assist in the decision to visit the UCC; an emergency room or schedule an appointment with their medical home.