Families visit Tricare approved civilian hospital
Ko Kyoung-ah (left), an English-fluent registered nurse who serves as the dedicated foreign patient coordinator in the International Clinic at St. Mary's Hospital, talks to a family from Red Cloud Garrison during a visit to the healthcare facility in Uijeongbu July 1.

UIJEONGBU, South Korea - It may not provide the plush level of comfort that expectant mothers or others who need specialty medical care would expect at a medical facility in the United States, but Soldiers and family members in Warrior Country are glad to know the Army has an agreement with an approved civilian healthcare provider who can provide the same level of care they would get back home.

Forty-one Soldiers, civilians and family members from Casey Garrison, Red Cloud Garrison and Camp Stanley received an inside look July 1 at the international clinic in St. Mary's Hospital, which entered into an agreement with the Army in 2000 to provide medical care for patients.

Since U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp announced Dec. 10, 2008 that 2,100 Soldiers in Warrior Country would get two-year command sponsored positions - a step in what the military calls "tour normalization" - the number of families has increased and so has the need for medical care.

The U.S. Army Health Clinic began offering monthly tours in November 2009 to familiarize community members with the hospital so it's not seen for the first time when someone becomes sick or is sent there for an emergency.

"We also want [the community] to understand the Army is providing a Tricare-approved hospital and it has all the equipment necessary to provide advanced care," said said Maj. Marta Artiga, chief nurse of U.S. Army Health Clinics in Warrior Country.

The tour was provided by Ko Kyoung-ah, an English-fluent registered nurse who serves as the dedicated foreign patient coordinator in the hospital's international clinic. It gave community members with a cursory visit to the delivery room, newborn nursery, neonatal intensive care unit, emergency room and a special recovery room for international patients.

"What they set up here is definitely going a little bit above and beyond what I expected..." said Sgt. 1st Class James Embrey, 4th Chemical Company, who visited the hospital with his eight-month pregnant spouse, Heather. "It definitely gives us a sense of security just having this available."

Heather, a corporal assigned to HHC, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion at Camp Hovey, intends to give birth next month at the 121st Combat Support Hospital/Brian Allgood Army Community Army Community Hospital on Yongsan Garrison.

"At least I know what to expect if I have to come down here instead of not knowing what will happen if I don't make it to 121 for my delivery, so it makes me feel a little bit more comfortable," she said. "If I had to deliver here it wouldn't be a problem."

Artiga said expectant mothers are given a choice between the 121st CSH/BAACH and St. Mary's Hospital. She encourages them to tour the hospital regardless of where they intend to give birth.

"It's important that future mothers make the visit," she said. "They can never tell about the delivery time... If something happens, they should have a backup plan, which is the nearest hospital in our area, and that is St. Mary's. It's always good to be prepared for any possibility."

Artiga said the majority of the patients who will be referred to St. Mary's Hospital are those who need surgery or need specialized care unavailable at the 121st CSH/BAACH, as well as those who require more frequent care.

The 642-bed St. Mary's Hospital was founded in 1957 as part of the Catholic University of Korea. It has 30 clinical departments, and was designated by the Gyeonggi provincial government in 2006 as the primary healthcare facility for international patients in the area.

Page last updated Wed July 14th, 2010 at 20:19