MDSS has healthcare covered at base clinic

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- The 22nd Medical Support Squadron does exactly what it says in the name.
They provide logistical, diagnostic, resource and administration support among a host of other activities to keep the clinic, and the approximately 20,000 area patients it serves, in good health.

Support for the patient care system, treating an estimated enrollment of 12,500, can be compared to the role of a mission support group on a base, said Lt. Col. Scott Hilmes, 22nd MDSS commander, with the squadron managing the daily business operations (money, manpower, contracts, supplies, information management, vehicle management, facility maintenance, medical readiness, beneficiary support) and ancillary support functions for the group.

The logistical piece is handled primarily through the medical logistics flight that covers facility management, medical equipment repair, contract management, acquisition, receiving and storing and housekeeping.

"We're kind of tucked into the corner, but we affect a lot of areas throughout the clinic," said 2nd Lt. Price Paramore, medical logistics flight commander, who has been at the base for about a month. He gives credit to the people in his flight for keeping things running "like a well-oiled machine."

"It's civilian, contractors and military personnel who work very, very well together," said Lieutenant Paramore, a native of Allen, Texas.

With a sizeable building, working together is important.

"The facility is not that old but it's such a big place - about 90,000 square feet - that's a lot of nooks and crannies and a lot of maintenance for upkeep over the past 10 to 12 years," said Lieutenant Paramore, referring to the job of the facility maintenance crew. "The thing they deal with most is preventive maintenance, so they don't have things breaking - heating and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing."

Housekeeping staff members work day and night shifts to keep areas clean, said Lieutenant Paramore, and create the right impression for patients.

Biomedical equipment technicians are responsible for repair and maintenance for about $4.5 million worth of medical equipment and assist with facility maintenance duties.

At the pharmacy, a mix of active-duty servicemembers, government service civilians, contractors and retired volunteers man the five windows and are filling 600 to 700 prescriptions per day, estimates Capt. Melissa Pammer, diagnostics and therapeutics flight commander.

"We do all provider order entry prescriptions, refills and civilian prescriptions in the same spot," said the Whitehall, Pa., native. "We try to prioritize and get the active duty in uniform in and out quickly. Not that anyone's less important, but we all know what it's like to be on the clock. Our hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Our lab and radiology is 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., also Monday through Friday.

"The lab can cover basic lab draws, including complete blood counts for red and white blood cells and blood cholesterol tests," said Captain Pammer, who trained as a pharmacist.

Radiology can cover basic X-rays, mammography and bone density scans but will soon lose their ultrasound capability when their technician deploys, said Captain Pammer.

"Everything but mammography is digital right now," said Captain Pammer, commenting on how the flight leverages technology. "We have two radiologists who alternate coming in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The X-rays are actually sent electronically to Wilford Hall (Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas), they're read there and we receive the diagnosis back."

Chances are, the first contact with the clinic will be through the TRICARE operations and patient administration flight, said Capt. Ted Rhodes, a 24-year Air Force veteran, who is the flight commander and also runs the resource management flight.

"We're the first step for any patient being seen, to include enrollment, appointments and referrals at our TRICARE service center. If you come in and the doctor says you need to see a specialist, we make sure you get the appointment you need in the civilian network and the bills are paid."

Resource management handles a budget of roughly $11 million and manages 279 manpower authorizations.

They ensure the right people are in the right job doing the right task at the right time in the most cost effective and efficient way possible, said Captain Rhodes.

"For example, one of the things we looked at was physical therapy and how we can better provide services at a better cost than we can downtown by revamping our facility," said the Wilmington, Vt., native, talking about current renovations under way in the physical therapy department.

The clinic has also looked to partner with community medical providers.

"We have a joint venture with the Veterans Administration medical center for a state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratory," said Captain Rhodes. "If a new cardiac referral comes in, we'll be able send them to the VA."

Whether it's administrative, resource management, information management, laboratory, diagnostics imaging, pharmacy, logistics, readiness or other services for the medical group, the 22nd MDSS has it covered.