News: US Naval Hospital begins transition to new facility
Story by Lance Cpl. Adam Miller
CAMP LESTER, Japan - Medical staff and service members conducted patient relocation drills March 2 from U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa at Camp Lester to what will be the hospital’s new location on Camp Foster.
The hospital and all of its functions are relocating to the new facility at Camp Foster after more than 50 years of operations at Camp Lester.
“The patient movement drill is an exercise ensuring we are ready to execute a safe and seamless relocation of our patients,” said Navy Capt. Pius A. Aiyelawo, the commanding officer of USNH Okinawa.
The primary purpose for conducting the drill was to prepare medical staff for the move and ensure equipment that will be used for transportation is ready, explained Aiyelawo.
The focus throughout the transition process is the safety and comfort of the hospital’s patients, according to Cmdr. Charles L. Cather, a nurse corps officer at USNH Okinawa and the transition coordinator.
“We want to continue to test and confirm our planning of processes is effective and safe,” said Cather. “I expect the transition to validate that we’ve anticipated the scenarios that could arise and have built in redundancy and the ability to react to situations as necessary.”
Hospital operations will transition function-for-function, meaning no new services will be added nor will any prior services be discontinued during the transition to the new facility.
The transition began March 5 and is scheduled to be completed March 22, when the new facility will be fully operational.
“It is important for our patients to know that we have trained extensively for the move with their safety in mind,” said Cmdr. Alison H. Castro, the assistant director for nursing services at USNH Okinawa and lead coordinator for inpatient movement during the transition. “We will assist patients with appointment scheduling at alternate locations throughout the transition to ensure health care needs are met.”
The emergency room and mother infant care center at the new facility on Camp Foster are scheduled to open March 16 at 7 a.m.
The new facility’s design is focused primarily on patient and staff safety, according to Aiyelawo.
It is built to withstand earthquakes and on the high ground on Camp Foster, outside of the tsunami flood zone.
Relocating a hospital and all of its functions is a difficult process, but it is important for everyone to know they will still receive any necessary and urgent care required during the transition, said Cather.
“I want the beneficiaries to have the confidence that if they get hurt or sick, they will get the treatment they need,” said Cather.