Beginning April 1st, William Beaumont Army Medical Center pharmacies on Fort Bliss will change operational hours and services at certain sites.

The reduction in hours and services comes as WBAMC's Department of Pharmacy postures itself for a reduction in staff to meet authorized requirements while continuing to deliver mission readiness throughout the Fort Bliss military community.

"The time changes are a minor reduction in hours, the biggest reduction overall is the level of service at Freedom Crossing pharmacy," said Lt. Col. Devon Reed, chief, Department of Pharmacy, WBAMC. "(Freedom Crossing pharmacy) Saturday hours are eliminated, it will be opening later in the morning, and the biggest component is they are only doing refill prescription pick-up (beginning April 1st)."

The changes in staffing will not allow the site to process new or renewal prescriptions. Due to reduction in staffing requirements, the current personnel roster of approximately 100 civilian pharmacy personnel across WBAMC clinics will see a nearly 20 percent reduction. Although the staff reduction will occur through attrition, the department is preparing itself to meet the readiness needs of Fort Bliss, while still operating its most convenient site.

"We are focused on readiness with these changes and had to eliminate a lot of conveniences in order to make sure we could continue our readiness-focused mission," said Maj. Monique Kennerly, deputy chief, Department of Pharmacy, WBAMC. "Some of those conveniences (pharmacies currently offer) therefore won't be able to be experienced (beginning April 1st)."

"Of all the pharmacies we have, the Freedom Crossing pharmacy is the most convenient (for beneficiaries), unfortunately, with us being limited on resources our focus has to remain on the primary mission of readiness," said Reed. "The major change is the level of service of change at Freedom Crossing to be a refill pick-up only site. They will no longer be filling new prescriptions or renewals."

With WBAMC's Freedom Crossing pharmacy only allowing for refill pick-up and no prescription processing, it's important for beneficiaries to understand differences between new, renewal and refill prescriptions.

"Once a patient has run out of a refills for a medication, they will be unable to use the pharmacy's automated refill line, (because) they are out of refills," explains Kennerly. "Patients will then need to contact their doctor to get a renewal of a previously filled prescription. Renewals will not be authorized for processing or pick-up at Freedom Crossing, patients may utilize any of our other pharmacy locations to have those filled. Once the patient is ready to refill that prescription, it may be called into the automated refill line and picked up from Freedom Crossing."

While pharmacists will remain available for consultations at the Freedom Crossing pharmacy, the time-intensive requirements for assuring patient safety with every new and renewed prescription places too much of a strain on the resources available at the pharmacy, consequently making the pharmacy a refill-only site.

"Even though a patient has been on a medication, (medical needs) change with patients," said Reed. "Those renewals are processed by pharmacists the same way a new prescription is to make sure nothing has changed, such as conditions that would make the medication unsafe for the patient or any updates to the medications themselves (such as recently-discovered contraindications)."

The Department of Pharmacy hopes the upshot of these changes is a noticeable increase in efficiency at the Freedom Crossing pharmacy for refills.

"Refills are processed, filled, checked and on the shelf, waiting to go (after being initiated through the automated refill line). When Freedom Crossing pharmacy becomes a refill-only pickup site, patients may notice the wait time to pick up refills will be minimal," said Reed.

"Right first," is a motto Reed has applied to remind staff the importance of patient safety.

"As much as our staff tries to be sensitive to patient wait time, it takes discipline on their part to focus on the patient in front of them, not the ones waiting behind, to make sure they get whatever is in front of them right to make sure we don't make unsafe actions," said Reed. "We don't want errors to occur. We know that this change may be frustrating, but it will be more frustrating if we are not able to maintain a safe service for our patients."

Across WBAMC's footprint, which include the McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and community-based medical homes, approximately 100,000 prescriptions are issued each month.

For more information, patient can call WBAMC's information line at 915-742-2273, option eight.

Hours of operation will be reduced at Fort Bliss pharmacies as follows:

Main Hospital Pharmacy
Monday - Friday: 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center Pharmacy
Monday - Friday: 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Soldier & Family Medical Clinic Pharmacy (SFMC)
Monday - Friday: 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

East Bliss Pharmacy
Monday - Friday: 7 a.m. - noon, 1 - 4 p.m.

Freedom Crossing Pharmacy (Refills only)
Monday - Friday 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Community-based medical home pharmacies and McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, will continue current hours of operation.