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News | March 14, 2007

3rd MDG strives to provide exceptional care to patients returning from combat zones

By 2nd Lt. Erin Slaughter 3rd Wing Public Affairs

The 3rd Medical Group is going above and beyond to get Alaskan Soldiers and Airmen injured in the Global War on Terror back here to receive the outstanding care they deserve.

Since July 2006, procedures have been put in place to ensure that Alaskans will be close to their families when undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the area of responsibility, said Col Elisha Powell, commander, 3rd MDG.

"It's hard enough for someone to be wounded, but then you displace them and it just multiplies the problem," said Colonel Powell.

"It's simple really, we want to bring Alaskans back to Alaska," said Col Billy Cecil, deputy commander, 3rd MDG.

Because these people are from our local Army and Air Force units, we feel like they're a part of our family, said Colonel Powell. When you feel like someone is a part of your family, you're going to care more and go out of your way to provide good care. As a Joint Medical Facility, we strive to provide top quality care for all of our beneficiaries, but we will bend over backwards for patients returning from theater and their families.

As the only hospital in the Pacific Air Forces area of operation that treats patients from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, the care the 3rd MDG provides is critical.

This fiscal year the 3rd MDG has had 126 patient visits returning from the battlefield. The doctors in theater are aware of the scope of care the hospital has, and if Elmendorf is capable of treating the patient, they come home to Alaska. Colonel Powell made sure Elmendorf has access to the patient tracking systems used in theater.

When a patient is admitted to a hospital in the Iraq or Afghanistan, they are immediately placed in the Transportation Command Regulating and Command and Control Evacuation System. When they are placed in TRAC2ES, Elmendorf healthcare providers can instantly see them. If the patient is from Alaska, that's when the 3rd MDG begins trying to bring them home for treatment.

When a patient returns via military aeromedical evacuation, they are met at the flight line by emergency room staff, the Army liaison, and an ambulance for transportation to receive immediate care. When the patient returns via commercial air, members of their unit pick them up and they are automatically scheduled for an appointment first thing the next morning.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bennett, 2-377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Richardson, is one patient that returned via military aeromedical evacuation.

"They had me in their care the entire time, from the flight line until the day I left," said Sergeant Bennett.

Sergeant Bennett's left bicep was severed by a grenade blast in Karbala, but because of the expedited care of the 3rd MDG, his arm is "in good shape," said the sergeant.

"There was no wait at all, they did the surgery the morning after I got there," he said.

Sergeant Bennett praised the doctors he worked with.

"I had to go to physical therapy every two days, and I could just walk in whenever and they would drop what they were doing to help me."

Sergeant Bennett, like every patient returning from Iraq, was assigned a primary provider and case manager before arrival. These individuals are provided medical information on the member so that they know the patient's exact needs as soon as they arrive.

"No one that gets injured in Iraq waits in line," said Colonel Powell.

We strive to not only take care of the member themselves, but to also care for their families. If it becomes evident that a patient has a spouse that's deployed, all of our staff will bend over backwards to ensure they have everything they could possibly need, said the colonel.

We really just want to make sure that everyone leaves here saying they were treated well. Everyone on this staff has either been deployed or will be deployed, so we all understand the attention these patients deserve, said Colonel Powell.

For more information, call the patient advocate, Tech. Sgt. Daniela Rabickow, at 580-5590 or the TRICARE representative, Capt. Gina Gorski, at 580-6401.