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DoD Mandates Evening, Weekend Hours at Medical

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 1997 – Military clinics and hospitals will open for evening and weekend patient care, DoD's top doctor has told the services' surgeons general.

Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said DoD will move aggressively on this patient care policy and ordered the surgeons general to submit implementation plans by March 10.

Joseph first announced his intentions at a regional TRICARE conference here in January. He told the participants DoD must "offer our patients access to the care they need, when it is convenient for them." He said the TRICARE access goal should be to provide clinical services four nights a week and, if needed, on Saturday mornings, the current civilian benchmark.

In a Feb. 7 memorandum to service secretariats, Joseph formalized the policy to "ensure success and beneficiary acceptance of our TRICARE program ... particularly for Prime enrollees." Under TRICARE, all active duty members receive their health care in Prime, DoD's managed care option, and most family members can elect to enroll in Prime. Military retirees and their families are eligible to enroll in Prime or one of two other options.

"The implementation of this policy should greatly enhance access for all TRICARE Prime enrollees," the DoD health chief added.

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