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Air Force begins transition of hospitals, clinics to the Defense Health Agency

U.S Air Force Col. Beatrice Dolihite, 81st Medical Group commander, briefs Keesler Medics on the Keesler Medical Center's transition to the Defense Health Agency during a commander's call at the Welch Theater on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct. 1, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

U.S Air Force Col. Beatrice Dolihite, 81st Medical Group commander, briefs Keesler Medics on the Keesler Medical Center's transition to the Defense Health Agency during a commander's call at the Welch Theater on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct. 1, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FOCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- The 81st Medical Group officially transferred management and administration functions to the Defense Health Agency today as part of a transition that will eventually include all Defense Department health care facilities.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal years 2017 and 2019, Section 702, titled “Reform of Administration of the Defense Health Agency and Military Medical Treatment Facilities,” mandated the transfers to the DHA.

The Military Health System is conducting the transition in phases. The 81st MDG, along with hospitals and clinics at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, in addition to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital are all part of the Phase 1 transition.

The ultimate goal of this transition for the DoD is a more integrated, efficient, and effective system of readiness and health that best supports the lethality of the force.

“From a patient perspective, most of these changes will go unnoticed,” said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Raquel C. “Rocky” Bono, DHA director. “Patients can expect the same high quality, trusted care they have come to know at our military treatment facilities. Providers can expect to focus on practicing medicine and maintaining their preparedness in the event of crisis.”

The DHA will be responsible for all facilities budgetary matters, information technology, healthcare administration and management, administrative policy and procedure and military medical construction.

“We’re honored and excited to be a part of this transition to DHA,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Beatrice T. Dolihite, 81st MDG commander. “We look forward to the opportunity to transform military health care into a more integrated system which will lead to consistent, high-quality health care experiences for our patients.”

The Keesler Medical Center is the first hospital in the Air Force to transition. The remaining facilities currently administered by the armed services, which includes more than 50 hospitals and 300 clinics within the MHS, will be phased in under DHA on a rolling basis over the next few years.

The next phase of integration, which includes hospitals and clinics in the Eastern U.S., should be complete by Oct. 1, 2019. Subsequent phases, which include hospitals and clinics in the Western U.S., followed by overseas medical facilities, should be completed by Oct. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021, respectively.

"Our amazing 81st MDG has a reputation in the Air Force as an innovative organization, first in robotics surgery in DoD and now the only training platform for robotics in the DoD,” said U.S Air Force Col. Debra A. Lovette, 81st Training Wing commander. “This professional team was also the first to use leadless pacemakers, groundbreaking work in the medical field. Excellence in the 81 MDG will continue, making this location well suited to lead the Air Force Medical System in this historic transition to DHA. We, at Keesler Air Force Base, are committed to partnering with DHA to optimize resources and provide support to ensure a smooth transition for our installation, our personnel and our beneficiaries."

Any changes to hours of operation or medical services will be communicated to patients and other customers in various ways. Information will come in the form of news stories the official KAFB app, social media and website and future MHS web platforms. Any specific questions or concerns can be directed to the KMC at (228) 376-2550.