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By Griffin Swartzell, 21st Space Wing
/ Published July 16, 2019
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The 21st Medical Group at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, will undergo a restructuring based on orders from the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, effective July 19, 2019. Flight medicine and family medicine will be deactivated and reorganized into the 21st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron and the 21st Healthcare Operations Squadron. This will streamline the Peterson healthcare system, improving medical readiness for active duty members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)
The 21st Medical Group at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, will restructure based on orders from the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, effective July 19, 2019. Flight medicine and family medicine will be deactivated and reorganized into the 21st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron and the 21st Healthcare Operations Squadron in order to streamline operations, improving Airmen availability for operational requirements. According to Maj. W. Taylor Timberlake, 21st MDG chief of aerospace medicine, the Peterson community should see few changes in how their healthcare is handled.
“The big thing that we want people to know is that from the patient's standpoint, nothing's going to change on the 19th,” said Maj. Heather Daugherty, 21st MDG interim chief of the medical staff and family health flight commander. “Everything that had to go through the wickets and get worked out happened back in October, so when the 19th comes, it's going to be business as usual.”
Currently, Flight Medicine treats all pilots and flight-ready personnel, as well as all space operators, explosive ordinance disposal, fire and security personnel, according to Timberlake. Family Medicine treats all other active duty Airmen, as well as dependents and retirees. Under this new model, the 21st OMRS will treat all active duty Airmen, and the 21st HCOS will treat only dependents and retirees, said Timberlake. This restructuring will allow 21st OMRS personnel to focus solely on readiness-centric healthcare and meeting the needs of today’s Airmen. Personnel in the 21st HCOS can focus on providing the same trusted care dependents and retirees have come to expect from family medicine.
“If you can streamline thought processes and keep people in a similar thought lane, then they can perform better and be more efficient,” said Daugherty.
Timberlake says most of the background work for this renaming and restructuring was done in 2018. Other Air Force medical groups received orders to restructure before Peterson, so under Daugherty’s direction and with the approval of Lt. Col. Robin Lech, 21st Medical Operations Squadron commander, family medicine took the initiative to plan ahead. They assigned some providers to only treat active duty Airmen, putting them on one team with consolidated lines of communication, and the rest to only treat dependents and retirees. When the restructuring takes place, the former group will combine with flight medicine to form the 21st OMRS, with no change in duties. The latter group will be the whole of the 21st HCOS, again with no change in duties.
“If someone is already empaneled to such and such doctor in Family Health, I'd say the vast majority are still going to see the same doc, because again, that's already been in place,” said Timberlake.