UCC Townhall: Q&A

  • Published
  • By Capt. Margaret Kealy-Machella
  • 366th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

On June 24, 2019, the 366th Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) hosted a townhall to discuss the July 15, 2019, closure of the Urgent Care Center (UCC) on base. 

Attendees raised many questions, focusing on other care options available as well as potential copays with any urgent care center or emergency room visits off base. 

In the introduction and summary of the changes, the UCC closure was placed into context of the bigger Air Force medical system. 

“This is the last Medical Treatment Facility in CONUS [continental United States] that has a UCC,” explained Col. Steven R. Ward, 366th Fighter Wing surgeon general. “The Air Force moved away from this model a long time ago.” 

Ward shared key details for the closure, including the fact that access to care at the 366th MTF through scheduled appointments has improved from an average of a 30 day wait for an appointment to around a 3-4 day wait over the past few years. 

It was clarified that the decision to close the UCC was not made at the base level and that the 366th MTF has been focused on partnering with the community to ensure beneficiaries continue to have excellent access to care.

“We are lucky that within 13 miles we have a facility that has a lot more capacity than needed for the community around it,” Ward said. “It is a shorter drive to access care than many people have to make, and to a location that doesn’t have a long wait.” 

Ward and his team worked through each question in detail, providing the most up to date information available in their answers.

As the townhall concluded, Col. Joseph D. Kunkel, 366th Fighter Wing commander, shared the importance of Airmen and families and his thankfulness for a supportive community to those that attended. 

“This is something I care deeply about,” Kunkel said. “And our medical team is working tirelessly to get this right for you.”

UCC closure townhall questions and answers:

Q: You say that it takes about 3-4 days to get an appointment; is that for Active Duty? Or dependents?
A: It is actually for both for the Active Duty (AD) and for beneficiaries. While we have fluctuated with some manning, for beneficiaries, the average has been 3-4 days for access to a scheduled appointment with a few outliers here and there. The 366th MTS has actually received positive feedback on the improved wait times over the past few years, and they are beating the Air Force average. While it may not always be that way, at this point, the 366th MTF is in a pretty good place.

Q: What are the options at St. Luke’s; when you walk in, what services are you utilizing there? Their Emergency Room or their other services?
A: If you head to the Emergency Room, you will not notice the FastTrak style option; when we initially talked to St. Luke’s they talked about potential for a “FastTrak” or “Walk In clinic” with same day family practice appointments, billing at family care prices. If you head to an off base care center and you get a bill and have questions, the TRICARE benefit coordinator can sit down and go through it with you to make sure it is fair and accurate. When you go for health care off base, we can access those care notes and it allows us to ensure we follow up and track the care you receive elsewhere.

Q: Is the ambulance service still on base?
A: Yes, ambulance services are still available on base and can be accessed by calling 208-828-0911. The 366th MTF anticipates that for the initial few months after the UCC is closed they will be stationed on base in case people show to the middle of the night to the UCC and need care. After that, fire will be used for that service.

Q: If funded through October, why close in July?
A: The 366th MTF team felt strongly about having the switch on their watch, as they’ve been here in the community and felt strongly about answering the questions from the community. To keep the UCC open past August, the 366th MTF would have to train the UCC team for the new record system, only for it to close in October, which is a large waste of training workhours. In addition, the status of manning was a factor. About six months ago, knowing that the UCC would be closing, the functional started to withhold replacements for current staff who were undergoing a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). With attrition, four months ago, the manpower started becoming an issue, and about two months ago, leadership had to begin to curtail leave requests by UCC staff and work the schedule to ensure coverage throughout the various shifts, even overnight. The 366th MTF felt it would be a bigger mess to curtail hours, as getting the word out and informing people would be extremely challenging. By July, it would be very challenging, and by August, with PCS’s this summer causing staff members to leave, there would be a scheduling crisis. Having the closure in July ensures that we continue high quality care while also taking into account the various factors behind the closing.

Q: Are the PCMs staying or are they going obsolete as well?
A: At this time, there are no plans to remove Primary Care Managers from the 366th MTF. Access to care and taking care of our patients is very important to us.

Q: Is the nurse advice line 24/7?
A: It is! This great care resources can be reached at 1-800-TRICARE/1-800-874-2273.

With the UCC closure, there are still many ways to receive care:

-If at risk of losing life, limb, or eyesight, call 911 (on base 208-828-0911) or go directly to the nearest Emergency Room

-Illness or injury that should be treated within the next 24 hours, Active Duty can utilize AD Sick Call, appointments with primary care manager via appointment line or online appointment scheduler, off base UCC for dependents or retirees (no pre-authorization needed) or call the Nurse Advice Line, 24/7 at: 1-800-TRICARE/1-800-874-2273 (Active Duty can use this resource to receive pre-authorization to visit an off base UCC.)

-For medication refills, utilize the online Relay Health Messaging system, make a Primary Care Manager appointment, or use the virtual appointment feature.

-For medical advice or questions about symptoms, call the Nurse Advice Line, 24/7 at: 1-800-TRICARE/1-800-874-2273.

For copay costs and questions, review www.TRICARE.mil or contact the Mountain Home AFB beneficiary counselor assistance coordinator, at 208-828-7498.