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Send in the reinforcements: Fort Carson provides aid to Washington State

 

Last updated 4/1/2020 at 9:50am

Approximately 200 medical personnel from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson left for Washington State Friday morning to help relieve overburdened medical workers battling COVID-19.

These troops are setting up fully functional, but temporary, hospital facilities to treat a wide variety of patients and medical conditions while native medical personnel deal with the exploding coronavirus epidemic in the northwestern corner of the United States.

Their mission will be "whatever FEMA directs us to do," Lt. Col. Jason Hughes said as the first round of troops boarded a plane at the Fort Carson Air Terminal in Colorado Springs.

"We're excited to support this mission," Hughes said. "This is why we exist and why we signed up."

Fort Carson announced earlier in the week that more than 300 medical personnel from the 627th Hospital Center would deploy to Washington to provide supplemental routine and emergency medical support to community medical staffs, allowing them to focus their resources and efforts on detecting and treating patients believed to have been exposed to COVID-19.

This is the unit's first deployment in a year and a half, when it was sent to Iraq. Hughes, who is heading up the team, said that while stateside deployments were not unheard of, this was his first time doing so. He said about 40 percent of the 627th members going to Washington had deployed before, but "for a lot of the younger soldiers, this is their first deployment."

Officials said they do not know how long this deployment will last, as the coronavirus and its effects on medical facilities at this time is unpredictable.

Evans Army Community Hospital is working to minimize the impact on Fort Carson soldiers, family members and retirees, according to a press release sent out last week.

Officials said this response is part of the whole-of-nation approach to fighting COVID-19. The Army is working with interagency partners - including FEMA, the CDC and the DOD Military Health System - to support and protect the military force and citizens.

The deployment of medical personnel potentially may affect upcoming scheduled medical appointments and the number of patients who may be seen by their primary care providers. Fort Carson medical personnel will work closely with supporting medical network partners to ensure patients receive safe and timely care, and reschedule appointments, as needed. Persons who have an upcoming medical appointment should call their Primary Care Manager to confirm the appointment date and time.

In the meantime, the base has had about 16,000 individuals screened. However, due to DOD policy, exact numbers of positive cases will be reported only at the Department of the Army level, not general public, "to preserve the nation's combat readiness," a spokeswoman said.

In an online townhall Monday night, Major General Matthew W. McFarlane announced that two of the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks - a National Guard soldier and a civilian healthcare worker - are recovering well.

"This is a tribute to both their own self-imposed measure as well as the rapid response of our medical community," McFarlane said. "We continue to improve our ability to keep soldiers, civilians and family members of the Mountain Post safe."

Col. Brian Wortinger, Garrison Commander, explained the commissary's current schedule (high-risk patrons 9-11 a.m., soldiers 11 a.m.-1 p.m., all eligible patrons 1-8 p.m.) will stay in effect, although the exact schedule may vary.

Last Thursday, the testing center at Evans identified its first positive case - a woman in her 70s, who was then admitted to a Colorado Springs hospital.

Beginning Monday, the Evans Pharmacy Department has developed curbside service for patients. Patients will need to show their DoD-ID card, or a copy of a family member's if picking up on their behalf.

Hours for this service are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Patients should arrive in the East Parking Lot near the Soldier Family Care Center, and an employee will come to assist. For questions or to schedule a pick-up for faster service, call (719) 526-7411.

Beneficiaries assigned to 627th Hospital Center and Evans may call the hospital's primary care appointment line at (719) 526-7000 or (719)-526-CARE (719-526-2273). Appointments also may be scheduled or cancelled using TRICARE online at http://www.tricareonline.com.

 

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