Remote Army clinic sustains patient care for NATO and more
By Marcy SanchezJanuary 14, 2020
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Located just outside the Brussels-Capital Region, NATO's headquarters and the administrative center for the European Union, the Brussels Army Health Clinic is tasked with providing health care to U.S. military personnel, their families and others in one of the Army's handful of health clinics in an international military community.Through a memorandum, the clinic, which is aligned under the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) Healthcare Facility located near Mons, Belgium, provides services to all members of NATO, to include approximately 750 empaneled active-duty troops throughout the area."(Seven hundred and fifty patients) is what we get budgeted for," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Muna Hassan, noncommissioned officer in charge, Brussels AHC. "There are 29 partnerships for peace (NATO) and we're obligated to see (all country service members) as well. Some may choose not to come here, but we don't turn anyone away."The arduous demands placed on the clinic's small staff have developed a tight-knit community of health care professionals dedicated to the overall mission and success of the clinic. While geographically isolated, the clinic also manages and coordinates certain medical orders, such as blood work, since the closest military medical center is over 200 miles away."We can only do certain labs on Mondays and Fridays because by the time they get sent to LRMC the blood may coagulate and they can't process it then," said Hassan.The tight-knit community has also relied on the clinic's medical services beyond the clinic walls through medical support of extra-curricular activities, such as school sporting events. Soldiers and staff are also active in community events such as holiday balls and other activities. This inclusiveness has also dictated how distinguished guests are welcomed."We have a special community," said Hassan. "It's important for our clinic because we do not discriminate on how we treat our patients based on rank or position. If we provide certain services for a general, we will do it for a private or family member as well."Hassan estimates 2,500 NATO troops and their families are entitled to care at the clinic, placing an increased demand on the small staff and an increased opportunity to build camaraderie and espirit de corps. The small staff relies heavily on each other to complete their mission and carefully balance medical and military duties to remain a ready medical force, despite their remote mission. When short-staffed, patient medical needs are fulfilled through careful coordination with SHAPE Healthcare Facility.Although small and remote, the clinic magnifies communication through social media and other local outlets. This effort has proven effective as patient satisfaction at the clinic remains one of the top in the region, a testament of the patient-centered medical home's commitment to beneficiaries, according to Hassan."(Patient) satisfaction and (survey) returns helps increase our efficiency process and by that they own their part of their medical care because they understand it improves what's available to them," said Hassan. "We're small, but we still have all of our normal-size clinic standards. We have infection control; we have safety; go through Joint Commission surveys - everything you can imagine a normal clinic would require."The comfort of the American clinic also attracts beneficiaries from throughout Europe, from The Netherlands to Paris."We get patients who are stationed at Paris or in Luxembourg, who will drive all the way here to get treated because it's so much easier than having to go out to local medical facilities," said Hassan. "It's better for their medical records because it's transferred over instead of having to track down these records, translate them and carry them around for years (if seen at a host-nation medical facility)."Trust is a trademark of the Brussels Clinic's healthcare providers, and it's one not taken lightly as they work to better patient care and delivery for not only American Soldiers and their families, but for warfighters of 29 countries around the world.