“We are exploring a different concept on how we deliver our care,” said Penner, who took over command of MAMC in August. “It’s a hub and spoke concept. Madigan is the hub, or the center of the wheel, and the clinics are the spokes. This project was initiated by the medical command. Although the idea preempted me by about 40 days, I helped give it legs when I arrived. ”
Currently there is no official timeline for the opening of the clinics, but they are in the works, Penner said. The need for the medical facilities was born from a desire to bring health care to the patients, rather than patients coming to the health care.
"The bottom line is," he said, "we are starting to treat this like a business. We have some loyal patients who travel as much as 60 miles to receive medical care. This is an opportunity to put a health care facility close to them.”
Although plans have not been finalized, MAMC officials hope to provide primary care, well woman, family practice, and pediatric services, as well as limited lab and radiology services, and a pharmacy in the clinics, he said.
“Women who are pregnant can go to a clinic until they are ready to deliver,” said Penner of the MAMC staff that comprises 1,218 military, and 4,282 civilian personnel. “Women can receive well woman services at the clinics, and people ages 0-95 can receive regular family practice health care at the clinics. If we move people off this footprint, our efficiency will go up.”
However, despite their off post locations, the clinics will be no different than receiving care in a family practice at Madigan, he said. The healthcare facilities will be staffed by military and civilian personnel, he said. Unlike private off post clinics who provide military families health care, there will be no fees, or costs to Tricare Prime patients who receive care in the clinics, he said.
There are many benefits to opening the clinics, he said. For starters, there is a lack of space for expansion at MAMC, so there is no room for growth, he said.
“We would love to increase enrollment at Madigan, but there’s no space,” he said. “We want to add more providers. To do this quickly, we need to go off post. If we expand Madigan we have to go through appropriations and that can take years. If we lease space for clinics we could be up and running in as little as 6-9 months.”
Secondly, leasing space would enable MAMC to provide medical care in various, more convenient locations, he said. One idea is to open a clinic at a mall, he said.
“If we opened a clinic in a mall, like the Lakewood Towne Center, or Tacoma Mall, people could shop, get a cup of coffee, and go to the doctor all at the same place,” he said.
Also opening clinics off post would help to cut down on the parking problem at MAMC, he said. Currently there is a big problem with parking at the medical center, he said.
We could build more parking lots at Madigan, but if we build anything here we have to chop down more trees, and we really don’t want to have to do that,” he said. “Opening clinics in other locations allows us to keep Fort Lewis more aesthetically green.”