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San Diego Facility Part Of Pentagon's Global Consolidation Of Military Medicine

Defense Department
Hospital Corpsman Travis Stephens leads 125 Sailors assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego at the annual Veterans Day parade in downtown San Diego, November 17, 2017.

The military medical system is in the middle of a major reorganization. Over the next few years, all Army, Air Force and Naval medical facilities will eventually become part of the Defense Health Agency.

Naval Medical Center San Diego will become part of the DHA network in 2020.

The U.S. Department of Defense predicts it will save money by consolidating the services under one agency, said Rear Adm. Raquel Bono.

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“The real driver in this is how we can best support the Department of Defense in creating a very high level of care that is consistent across the entire military health enterprise,” Bono said.

Bono heads the agency that will eventually oversee the bulk of military medicine, including services for families and retirees. San Diego isn’t scheduled to be consolidated until October 2020, but the change is underway at installations around the country. Local sailors and Marines who transfer to other parts of the country may already find their care will be taken up by the nearest Army or Air Force hospital.

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Congress and the Pentagon saw the potential of this kind of integration during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Being able to replicate that at home, the way we did on the battlefield, we realized there were some opportunities there for helping our collective health care system become more highly reliable,” Bono said.

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The Defense Health Agency was created in 2013. One of the first tests of the concept was the consolidation of the National Naval Medical Center and the U.S. Army’s Walter Reed medical center in to the current Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, she said.

Congress mandated the services to begin cooperating the same way throughout the world. The change was initially supposed to finish last year. The transfer was extended to 2021 to give services more time.

San Diego Facility Part Of Pentagon’s Global Consolidation Of Military Medicine
Medical centers run by each branch of the military will be combined under the Defense Health Agency. Sailors and Marines may by treated by an Army doctor as the Pentagon tries to cut costs and improve outcomes. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes,Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.