FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS - Brooke Army Medical Center patients are valued here so much here that they receive curbside service, namely patient valet parking.

Since June, the hospital instituted patient valet parking due to the BRAC construction projects limiting the amount of patient parking in the area. For many patients, circling the parking lots was the norm, often resulting in late arrival to appointments.

"I love it, especially the convenience and not having to try to find a parking spot." said Judy Barbour, who was late for her appointment, "It's nice to run up, hand over the keys and take off. So many people are here. It's the best thing they (BAMC) ever did."

According to Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commander of the Southern Regional Medical Command (Provisional) and BAMC, by introducing valet parking to our valued patients, "we expect to eliminate a major stressor associated with clinic appointments at BAMC."

Offered Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Federal Holidays or BAMC Training Days, BAMC's free valet parking is a temporary service available to patients with a valid ID-card or a scheduled appointment slip.

Primarily, the service is being offered during the BRAC construction and renovation period, and will discontinue after the construction is complete.

"Valet parking is excellent. It's the greatest thing that ever happened. I think with the rush and worry about getting from one place to another or not having to run around in the heat; valet parking really helps, " said Air Force Sgt. Roque Solis standing outside the hospital with his family, awaiting their car. "I'm thankful to the people who have the warm hearts to help us out."

During the first week of operations, some 800-1,000 patients were served. The current average is 450-600 patients per week due to adding additional patient spaces and the relocation of staff handicap parking to main post.

To access the valet parking service, a patient should enter BAMC from the I-35 gate and continue to follow the signs to the hospital medical mall circle to drop off the car with a valet attendant. A 4-digit ticket will be give to the driver, and the other portion maintained with the car keys. Upon the completion of the patient's appointment, return to the valet booth; present the ticket to the valet supervisor who will dispatch an attendant to retrieve the car.
Although often offered by many patrons, tips are not accepted.

Patients like Solis, Babour and Ramona Tames agree the new service is an excellent, convenient service offered at the hospital.

"I love it (valet parking)," said Ramona, who's taken full advantage of the service, since it began in June. Her care is at BAMC, while her husband, Israel is seen at the Veterans Hospital. "We don't have to park far away; it's convenient. My husband can't walk that far."

For patients who wish to park their own cars, they may do so in parking lots A and B through the Binz-Engleman Gate, and lot D at the I-35 gate.

In fact, Janette Maher said "valet parking is so wonderful; it's the best thing since a month of Sundays, especially for people who are not young anymore. My husband is on a walker and I'm a slow walker, so valet parking really helps."

Most BAMC patients said the long walk from the parking lot - even from the handicapped parking spaces - was challenge for those with limited mobility.

On crutches, retired Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Parham stops at the valet parking booth to catch his breath, and smiles. "It's a long way to the parking lot and I have a disable tag, but on crutches..." He shakes his head. "With a whole town, a military city comprised of retirees, the valet service is a blessing for those who can't move expeditiously."

"Valet parking is not a luxury, but a necessity," added Israel. "We vets are still lucky that we can walk a mile with no problem. A lot of retirees are not asking for favors, they're asking to pay one back."