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Clinic unsure of ability to serve retirees

April 20, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The U.S. Army health clinic at Letterkenny Army Depot will remain open, although the Army has yet to decide if it will continue offering health care to military retirees and dependents.

"That may still be a possibility," said Bill McLean, chief of managed care for medical department activity at Fort Meade, Md. He will be among officials attending a public meeting on the future of the clinic at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, in the depot chapel.

The clinic has a physician, two registered nurses, a licensed practical nurse, lab technician and three clerical workers, according to Vernell Perry, one of the registered nurses and the clinic manager. She said the clinic's primary mission will continue to be to provide occupational and preventive health care to the depot's civilian employees.

As for military retirees and their dependents, "We have very limited services we can offer them" because of the clinic's size, she said. She said it serves about 60 retirees a month.

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The clinic does not serve civilian retirees of the depot, Perry said.

Robert Harris, director of the Franklin County Veterans Affairs Office, estimated there are about 1,500 military retirees in the county.

McLean said the Army's original plan was "for a major scale-back" of retiree services, but the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command has yet to make a final decision.

The decision will be based, in part, on whether the small clinic has enough capacity to continue serving retirees, according to McLean. The clinic serves approximately 2,500 civilian employees of the depot and its tenant activities, according to depot spokesman Alan Loessy.

With Fort Ritchie, Md., closing later this year, Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., or the Carlisle (Pa.) Army barracks would be the nearest facilities for retirees seeking routine health care if the Army cuts services at the depot, he said.

Representatives from the Army Surgeon General's Office, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and representatives of major veterans groups will be at the May meeting. They make up the Base Realignment and Closure Commission Beneficiary Working Group, according to a Department of the Army announcement.

Military retirees and other beneficiaries are invited to attend and present ideas or alternatives for providing medical services. The recommendations will be submitted to Congress and the secretary of defense, according to the Army.

The clinic is in the former headquarters building at the depot. Because the building is being turned over to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority for civilian use, Perry said the clinic eventually will be moved to another location at the depot.

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