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Sick call: Now open for active duty

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Ferguson
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Pope Clinic is now seeing active duty patients Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. for acute illnesses, profile updates, overseas clearances and last minute deployment issues.

"Our biggest goal is to see that our active duty gets same-day access," said Lt. Col. James Dienst, 43rd Medical Operations Squadron commander. "It was a big risk, but it turned out to be a home run. We streamlined the process and made it more efficient, but the big thing is that we're meeting our mission [of providing care to our warfighters.]"

According to Colonel Dienst, it's a very efficient system. The active duty providers have carved out a two-hour block to see active duty patients only.
Since sick call began, the average number of patients has more than doubled.

"In November we saw about 17 patients per day," said Master Sgt. Lisa Schlechty, 43rd MDOS superintendent. "In December, it was up to 28 per day, and now we're seeing about 40 patients each day. I think a lot of people are getting word of sick call and that's why our numbers are going up."

According to the sergeant, since sick call was started there have been about 2,000 less phone calls for the front desk clerks to take. Before sick call started, the clinic had 28,000 phone calls in a month to providers and appointment clerks.

Capt. Kirk Jenkins, 43rd MDOS Primary Care Flight commander, clarified who should come to sick call for what reasons.

"If you have an emergency, go to the [emergency room]," he said. "Sick call is not the place to come, because we'll send you to the ER. Sick call is for acute issues, things that would keep you from going to work. For routine appointments or annual physicals, call the appointment clerks to make appointments for those things."

Captain Jenkins said that if patients come in for reasons that don't warrant sick call, they are given an appointment instead. He also noted that flyers are still seen at flight medicine sick call, not the primary care clinic sick call.

"Sick call allows us to balance getting our active duty seen, along with the 5,000 dependents we're responsible for," Colonel Dienst said.

He added that the same-day appointments were getting filled by 7:30 a.m., and the clerks would many days have 40 to 50 active duty patients calling for appointments that were already filled.

"It's a big team effort [to make this work], including our doctors, nurses and technicians," the colonel said. "We see a lot more patients more quickly with this avenue, and our active duty has same-day access, which it wasn't that way before."

Capt. Bobby Mitchell, sick call team chief, has been with the program from its inception.

"We realized there was a shortage for seeing our active duty folks, so we give them the morning time, so we can see them and get them back to work," he said.

Captain Mitchell said it took a couple months to work through the process, but they've had nothing but positive input from the active duty patients.

Check-in is from 7 to 7:30 a.m. Everybody comes in and fills out a form with their symptoms. Captain Mitchell or another nurse "eyeballs the patients" and looks at the forms before taking them back to see the doctors.

"The admin stuff has to wait, because we see the acute issues first, but almost everybody is seen by 9 a.m.," Captain Mitchell said.

The staff also tries to ensure that each patient gets seen by their specific provider. If a follow-up appointment is necessary, the staff goes ahead and books the appointment for them at that time.

"There's a mad rush at the door from 7 to 7:30, but the main thing is, we're seeing our people and taking care of the troops," Captain Mitchell said.

"Active duty is our No. 1 priority," Colonel Dienst said. "They are our main mission."