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ACCESS TO CARE
New Central Call Center to centralize appointment process
HEIDELBERG, Germany - A Europe Regional Medical Command initiative to streamline the process of making medical appointments will begin Jan. 4 with the opening of an enhanced Central Call Center co-located with the U.S. Army Health Center Heidelberg.
The call center will initially serve the Heidelberg Health Center and outlying Army health clinics at Mannheim and Coleman Barracks.
Thirty booking clerks will be employed to make medical appointments at the call center. Hours of operation will be 6 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays. The call center will be closed on weekends and Federal holidays.
"This is an efficient phone call tree system designed to streamline the appointment process by providing quick access to appointment clerks, the Nurse Advice Line and clinic-specific information," said Capt. Raul Jurado, chief of the clinical operations division for Heidelberg Medical Department Activity and project officer for the call center initiative.
The DSN line for Heidelberg area beneficiaries will be 371-2622, and the toll-free number will be 0800-914-6133.
"Callers from Mannheim, Coleman, and Heidelberg can begin calling the number on Jan. 4 to make appointments at their clinics," said Jurado. "Our goal is to add Katterbach and Illesheim by Feb. 1."
It is anticipated that by summer 2010, appointments at all Army health clinics across Germany - including primary health care clinics at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - will be made by calling a common phone number at the call center.
"This new initiative to centralize medical appointments Europe-wide will improve access to care," said Jurado. "As we transition the clinic and primary care appointing process in Germany, we will continue to work towards the inclusion of our Army clinics in Belgium and Italy."
According to Lt. Col. Michael Richardson, director of the ERMC Patient Administration Division, the appointing process is a four-tiered system. It includes the new centralized appointing system, the Nurse Advice Line, clinic appointing capability for walk-ins and limited call-ins, and TRICARE Online.
Beneficiaries will be able to schedule medical appointments through the call center or be connected to a registered nurse through the Nurse Advice Line.
Richardson said beneficiaries who want to make appointments at their own convenience 24-hours a day, seven days a week can use TRICARE Online at www.tricareonline.com
Jurado said the call center and the other appointing methods will improve overall access to care.
A grand opening will be scheduled at the Central Call Center in January.
Heidelberg MEDDAC Public Affairs
Standing on the same steps as generations of warriors before them, 18 Heidelberg MEDDAC non-commissioned officers raised their right hands and took the charge of the NCO Corps during a lineage ceremony Jan. 15 at Heidelberg Castle.
The ceremony, which included an NCO induction ceremony and the results of Heidelberg MEDDAC's Best Warrior of the Year competition, was designed to recognize the contributions NCOs make to the Army.
"At the front of every Army mission in the United States or overseas, you will find a non-commissioned officer," said Command Sgt. Maj. Yolanda Lomax, USAG Baden-Wurttemberg Command Sergeant Major.
"They know their mission, they know their equipment, but most of all they know their Soldiers." Additionally, the ceremony highlighted the Army's theme for 2009, "The Year of the NCO", a formal recognition last given by the Army in 1989.
"It's a celebration of one of America's greatest assets, the NCO Corps, the backbone of the American Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Stoney Crump, Heidelberg MEDDAC Command Sergeant Major.
"We wanted to honor our NCOs in a unique way. This is the first lineage ceremony ever held at the castle. It's both fitting to our lineage as Soldiers and part of our history here in Germany." The first half of the night was dedicated to new sergeants being inducted into the NCO Corps.
For Families in the audience, it was an opportunity to learn about the difference between being a sergeant and becoming an NCO.
"A lot of people don't know there's a difference between being a sergeant and an NCO," said Sgt. Charles J. Powell, who was inducted into the NCO Corps.
"A sergeant wears the stripes and an NCO is the one who does what he should do, which is taking care of Soldiers. It's the difference between wearing the rank and doing the job." The ceremony also gave attendees the opportunity to learn not only about the current standards of the NCO Corps, but also the history involved behind its development.
"We've progressed a long way from 1775," said SSG Scott A. Rankin, who works for the Heidelberg Health Center. "Then we didn't even have any responsibilities. However, as you go through all the wars to the time now, the NCOs lead Soldiers into combat."
With an evening steeped in Army tradition, the general feeling from the new members of the NCO Corps was one of pride and honor. However, for one married couple being inducted together, the sense of accomplishment was twice as much.
"My wife helps me out. She keeps me on track and doing the right thing. She's helping me progress in my career," said Sgt. Matthew J. Endreson, one of the inductees. "I owe a lot to her."
The second half of the event was dedicated to the Best Warrior of the Year competition. During Jan. 9 - 10, seven Soldiers competed for the title of NCO and Soldier of the Year, Best Warrior for Heidelberg MEDDAC.
"Their tasks were mirrored against a day in Afghanistan," Crump said. "For example, when outside the wire as a medic on patrol you may have to fight for your life and that of your patient. There may come a time when you're tired and hungry. So in our competition, we had combatives, which is hand-to-hand combat, as the last event after 17 hours of continuous operations when everyone was tired and ready to rest." Other events included the Army physical fitness test, an oral board, demonstrating the use of three weapons at a range and performing medical skills in different scenarios.
"These are all of the aspects of being a Soldier rolled into a 36-hour period," Rankin said. "You get to see the heart and energy of an American Soldier."
The winners of the competition, Sgt. Marlon M. Derecho and Spc. Ted U. Rowe, both expressed their gratitude to those who helped them train and their desire to excel as they enter the next round of regional competition. The event closed with remarks from the command group, but the evening was best summed up by one of the new inductees.
"2009 is shaping up to be a really good year," Endreson said.