By Mindy Campbell, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern November 15, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany (Nov. 15, 2011) -- Bill Schweitzer, a retired Army colonel living in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, knows it isn't the outside of a health clinic that matters. It's what happens on the inside that is important.
"Unfortunately, I spend more time (in health clinics) than I would like," said Schweitzer, who spent 37 years on active duty.
With all the time Schweitzer spends in health clinics, he is confident that the quality of care he receives is amazing, whether he is in one of the pre-fabricated containers on Kleber Kaserne or at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
This is something he knows will only continue to increase as Soldiers, staff and family members recently celebrated the opening of the new $5.5 million U.S. Army Health and Dental Clinic on Kleber in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A BRAND NEW LOOK
The Kleber Health and Dental Clinic re-opened after closing in 2008 for renovations. Since that time, staff and patrons have made due in pre-fabricated containers across from the current clinic and dental clinics at Pulaski Barracks and Building 3245 on Kleber.
Despite the physical appearance, one thing that never changed was the quality of care, said Schweitzer.
"The service we got across the street in those old trailers was exactly the same," he said. "I am amazed that the service just seems to get better and better. The building doesn't make that much difference. I think that is attributed to the people -- the Soldiers and the civilians who are here. They all have the can-do attitude and (embrace) truly selfless service."
The new facility, which has the capacity for treating an additional 3,700 to 5,000 beneficiaries, will continue to provide primary health and dental services, behavioral health, pharmacy, optometry, physical therapy and primary care, according to clinic officials. The Soldier Medical Readiness Center will accommodate in-processing, readiness and out-processing physical exams, hearing conservation and other services that support all medical aspects of military readiness.
The new clinic is a 16,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building, said Paul Lindemer, the Directorate of Public Works facilities engineering chief. The renovations were supposed to last just nine to 12 months and cost $3 million. However, due to contract issues and the condition of the building, the project ended up lasting significantly longer than expected.
The vision of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is to provide a world-class system that serves the physical, behavioral, social and spiritual well-being of the patients, said Col. Jeffrey B. Clark, LRMC commander, during the grand opening ceremony.
"This $5.5 million building now provides the proper setting for our staff, but, most importantly, for those we are privileged to serve," Clark said. "This is what our patients and our staff deserve."
The closure of the dental clinic was a challenge, said Col. David J. DuBois, Landstuhl Dental Activity commander.
"It was a sad day when we had to close down our dental clinic in 2008," DuBois said. "But the mission to provide dental care did not end with the closure of Kleber Dental Clinic."
Instead, the staff was split between a portable field clinic, a temporary clinic on Kleber and the clinic on Pulaski.
"We are extremely pleased to be co-located with our medical colleagues, which will allow us to provide the best comprehensive care available in Europe to all of our Soldiers," DuBois said.
The timing of the opening of the clinic is important as the Army shifts to a Patient-Centered Medical Home model and as the area is expecting to see an increase in Soldiers, said Maj. Lawanda D. Warthen, U.S. Army Health Clinic Kaiserslautern commander.
"This came at a time that the Army continues to transform and resize as we move from Mannheim and the Heidelberg community to Sembach as well as the Landstuhl community," Warthen said. "This facility will make things more efficient and effective."
Before, the old facility didn't have enough space to accommodate family members, she said. The increased space in the clinic will allow the staff to provide better care, she said.
"We are one team of health professionals and we are now back together offering more efficient and convenient care for our beneficiaries," Warthen said.
Having a clinic on the east side of the footprint helps cater to those Soldiers or family members who live or work nearby or don't have a car. Plus, the addition of physical therapy and optometry services at the clinic also helps provide more efficient care, she said.
"Now the Soldier who doesn't have a car doesn't have to take a whole day off just to get physical therapy," Warthen said.
The facility has been long in coming, but worth the wait, said Lt. Col. Michael Dinos, Kleber Dental Clinic officer in charge.
"The end result is this fine, modern clinic that will serve the community well for years to come," Dinos said.
The new dental facility also has an increased efficiency. Each suite has its own X-ray machine, which makes the rooms more self-sufficient, Dino said. In addition, the dental clinic will eventually be able to do a lot of its own lab work, which currently has to be sent out to Pulaski.
However, with the expected influx of new Soldiers, Dinos is expecting the Kleber Dental Clinic to be the busiest of the three Army facilities.
"We will try hard to get family members in," Dinos said.
However, he encourages family members to seek care off post.
"They have awesome options," Dinos said. "There are many providers -- many (ex-patriots) and American-friendly providers -- in Kaiserslautern."
For Schweitzer, the new facility only highlights the excellent care he has received by Army clinics over the years.
"I would rate the health care provided not just in this clinic, but in the community, the best the Army has to offer," he said. "People don't realize how lucky they are to have this available to them."
For more information about the U.S. Army Health Clinic, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 483-1750 or 0631-411-1750. For information about the U.S. Army Dental Clinic, call 483-1720 or 0631-411-1720.