Thursday, November 1, 2007

Joint Task Force Oversees Region

The Defense Department established the Joint Task Force National Capital Region-Medical Oct. 1 to provide the best possible care for America’s wounded warriors returning from war while carrying out the complex changes mandated through the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

Coordinating resources from military medical branches throughout the region will ensure war casualties coming into the National Capital Region receive unparalleled health care, said Joint Task Force commander Rear Adm. John Mateczun. That, he said, will eliminate redundancies in services.

The medical arms of the Army, Navy and Air Force work for a chain of command with in their own service and operate internally well, he said. Problems sometimes arise, though, when the services have major medical facilities within the same region.

‘‘We sometimes don’t do a good job coordinating an integrated plan,” Mateczun said. ‘‘The joint task force is meant to integrate across those services to make sure we have a regional concept of operation that includes all of the facilities that exist today.”

He said the National Capital Area is the most complex health care region the military has because of the number of services, medical facilities and patients. To coordinate resources throughout the region efficiently, the Defense Department recognized a joint command was needed to oversee and integrate the individual branches.

The president and the Defense Department organized review groups to evaluate ways the military could improve upon casualty care, Mateczun said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England convened a group of senior leaders to arrive at solutions to the various groups’ recommendations. Part of that solution was to form the Joint Task Force National Capital Region-Medical. He determined the task force will report to the secretary through the deputy secretary.

In addition to integrating medical resources between the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the region, the task force will also implement the Base Realignment and Closure changes and develop an improved regional medical disaster response system.

At the National Capital Area’s Healthcare Synchronization Conference Oct. 9, Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. S. Ward Casscells said people should view integrating military medical resources in a positive light.

‘‘[Integration] is not about cost-cutting. It’s not about centralization. It’s not about the Defense Department sticking its nose into the services business,” Casscells said. ‘‘It’s about going from good to great. Good to great in patient care. Good to great in quality of care, good to great in our teaching and our research.”

‘‘Being good stewards of the money that the people of America give us is always an important principle, but it’s not the driving principle to change the system,” Mateczun said. ‘‘There may not only be inefficiencies, but ineffectiveness by using redundant services. What you gain is a redistribution of services so that they are delivered in a more effective way from the perspective of the region and from the perspective of the patients.”

The new medical task force is a concept that could be applied elsewhere, Mateczun said.

‘‘I think you will see change in those areas where multi-service collaboration is required,” he said.

The command will be populated with approximately 150 military and civilian personnel and will be fully operational Sept. 30, 2008.