WASHINGTON (APRIL 3, 2015) – Another sequestration could mean the loss of more than 6,000 medical personnel from the Army, the service’s surgeon general told senators, March 25.
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense about the fiscal 2016 budget request and its potential impact on the Army Medical Command, also known as MEDCOM.
“The Army is preparing to draw down to an active-duty end-strength of 450,000 Soldiers that will result in a reduction of more than 800 active-duty MEDCOM personnel,” Horoho said. “If sequestration returns, the Army may be compelled to reduce active-duty strength to 420,000 – leading to an anticipated reduction of greater than 3,000 active-duty MEDCOM personnel.”
In her written testimony she wrote that based on Army Medical Command’s experience from the 2013 sequester, MEDCOM expects to lose an additional 3,000 civilians across the command. Further, the damage to the civilian work force – despite aggressive hiring actions since 2014 – has still left a shortfall of more than 1,800 civilians.
“While many think of MEDCOM as green-suit healthcare providers, the reality is civilian employees comprise 60 percent of the workforce – they are the backbone, stability and glue of our system,” she said.
Speaking about the 2016 defense health program budget, Horoho first highlighted the accomplishments of Army medicine, citing the development of a ground-breaking vaccine for Ebola; the promotion of the Performance Triad and increasing the impact of readiness touch points that include embedded providers, Soldier Centered Medical Homes, dental clinics and garrison medical facilities.
“Our Soldiers’ readiness remains our number-one priority,” she said. “We added combat power back to the force by reducing the number of Soldiers who were non-deployable due to health reasons – we made tremendous strides in our transformation from a healthcare system to a system for health.”
She said the journey Army medicine is moving along has made it a highly reliable organization for safety and health care delivery through the use of evidence-based practice and cutting-edge research, which now delivers care far forward through tele-health efforts.
“The Military Health System review validated our pathway to improve safety and quality of care to our Soldiers, our families and those retiring,” she said. “The review showed that we are either above or comparable to the best health care systems in the nation.”
Horoho said that Army medicine’s focus was based on four priorities: deployment medicine and casualty care; readiness and health of the force; the capability to keep a ready and deployable medical force and to assure the health of families and retirees.
“However, all the lessons learned and progress we have made as a result of the last 13 plus years of persistent conflict and our focused efforts at continuous improvement along our four priorities are at risk of being slowed, halted and reversed, given an unstable environment and the detrimental second- and third-order effects of sequestration.”