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Rotarians hear MEDDAC commander's plans

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POSTED: November 13, 2013 10:00 p.m.
Photo by Randy C. Murray/

Col. Kirk Eggleston, commander of Stewart-Hunter Medical and Dental Activity and Winn Army Community Hospital, speaks Tuesday at the Hinesville Rotary Club meeting at the La Quinta Inn.

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Col. Kirk Eggleston, commander of Stewart-Hunter Medical and Dental Activity and Winn Army Community Hospital, was the guest speaker for the Hinesville Rotary Club meeting-luncheon Tuesday at the La Quinta Inn.
Eggleston said many in the community refer to MEDDAC and Winn as one and the same. He said Winn actually refers to the hospital but MEDDAC refers to a variety of activities, including the hospital, clinics and the Warrior Transition Unit.
With most of the 3rd Infantry Division’s troops returning home over the next few weeks, he expects to see an increase in patient cases at behavioral-health clinics and a decrease in clinics treating combat injuries.
“Problems like (post-traumatic stress disorder) start to show up a few weeks after soldiers return from downrange,” he said. “The behavioral-health budget has increased more than most (medical activities) ... We are starting imbedded behavioral-health teams down at the brigade level.”
He said Stewart-Hunter MEDDAC is treating more than 61,000 active-duty soldiers, family members and retirees. The Warrior Transition Unit is smaller than in previous years. Stewart WTU assists 151 wounded warriors with 180 cadres, he said.
As the Army’s budget gets smaller, he expects the Army probably will take a hard look at retaining soldiers with physical limitations.
He talked about the Medical Evaluation Board process, in which wounded warriors are evaluated for retention, reclassification into new military occupational specialties or selected for medical discharge or retirement. In past years, the process at Stewart-Hunter developed a backlog of soldiers whose lives and careers essentially were placed on hold.
With last year’s opening the new MEDDAC Medical Evaluation Center in Hinesville, he said they were able to eliminate the backlog. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs now has a backlog of veterans needing evaluation and assistance. He said wounded warriors stay in the Army until they get their disability rating back from the VA.
He said the Army’s focus is on the experience of care, with an emphasis on readiness while keeping down per-capita costs and improving the overall health of the Army population. The Army is using what he called the performance triad, which emphasizes preventive-health priorities, including exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep.
Eggleston listed his own priorities as focusing on patient care, the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Program, fighter readiness, leadership development and using the right resources to accomplish the mission while being a good steward of people and assets.
He paused a moment to say that he realizes military retirees have gotten a runaround with their medical care due to emphasis on keeping the current force ready for combat. He did not agree with those who said medical benefits were not part of the benefits package guaranteed to soldiers who serve long enough to retire.
“Regardless what’s in writing, there was at least an implied promise to take care of soldiers and their families,” Eggleston said. He added that he will try to keep that implied promise.
He concluded his remarks by talking about Winn’s new wing that soon will open and will include orthopedics, podiatry, physical therapy and occupational therapy. There also will be a behavior-health clinic on the second floor. The wing, called the Liberty Wing, will open next month with a ribbon cutting in January, he said.
The Rotary also recognized Sgt. Ke’Aira Conley, senior food-operations sergeant with 632nd Maintenance Company, as its soldier of the month.

 

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