Medics rock – Prepare to shock!

  • Published
  • By Col Brenda Waters
  • 31st Medical Group commander

As the commander of the 31st Medical Group, I’m continually honored to have the opportunity to lead and serve Aviano’s Wyvern medics in our critical role to support the 31st Fighter Wing’s mission to deter aggression, defend U.S. and NATO interests and develop Aviano. Our medics take pride in providing outstanding healthcare for our active duty members, civilians and dependents.


Aviano medics play a pivotal role across the base. 


Most of you are aware of our mission to provide primary care, flight medicine, mental health, surgical services, radiology, laboratory, optometry and dental care. However, the 31st MDG also serves in areas you may not be aware of, such as monitoring the health of food products available at base dining facilities, monitoring radiation levels in drinking water, deployment health, physical therapy and audiology services.


Even though our main facility is in Area 1, your Wyvern medics are all over the base, serving you and your families each and every day. 


I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few upcoming 31st MDG changes for 2017 through 2018 for the 31st MDG. As mandated by the Department of Defense, our facility will transition from an “In-patient medical hospital” to an “Out-patient ambulatory surgical center” by Oct. 31, 2018.


What exactly is the difference between the two? 


Typically, an in-patient hospital provides in-patient services, such as staying overnight in the facility that is providing 24/7 care. Our labor and delivery unit is currently providing this in-patient service. An ambulatory surgical center, on the other hand, provides only out-patient services which do not require a patient to stay overnight. This includes all primary care, minor surgeries, women’s health (not including labor and delivery) and other similar services.


What will this transition mean to our Airmen and their families?


It simply means a very small number of our services will no longer be available on base, primarily our labor and delivery unit and the occasional surgery which would require an overnight stay. Once this transition has occurred, and we’re no longer able to deliver babies at our facility, pregnant women will be referred to off-base facilities for their pre- and post-partum treatment. These facilities are not new to us, and many Aviano moms have delivered babies at these facilities and will continue to do so even before the upcoming hospital transition occurs. 


The local, off-base facilities we refer our pregnant women to provide medical care at a level equal to that which is provided in the United States. We refer many patients to the local network, for a variety of services unavailable in our facility, such as emergency care, neonatal intensive care unit, podiatry, pain management, and medical specialties like ear, nose and throat surgery. Labor and delivery will simply be one more service we will not be able to provide at our facility.


When will this transition happen?


The timetable is still being discussed and will be confirmed at higher headquarters, but you’ll hear more about it in the near future. We’re currently required to complete our transition by Oct. 31, 2018. This will involve months of process changes. One thing to keep in mind is there is always the chance these plans or timetable may change. As we often state—and indeed it rings true—“Flexibility is the key to airpower.”


Lastly, if you get the chance today, please thank a medic for their service and dedication to you, your families and our community. On behalf of the 31st MDG, I would like to express our gratitude for the commitment to excellence and the strong teamwork you demonstrate each and every day in helping us to accomplish our mission here at Aviano! Thank you.