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Argentine Defense Ministry Modernizes Military Hospitals to Better Serve Troops, Civilians

Argentine Defense Ministry Modernizes Military Hospitals to Better Serve Troops, Civilians

By Dialogo
November 12, 2015

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Argentina’s Defense Ministry is investing about 100 million pesos ($10.5 million) to renovate all Armed Forces hospitals as part of the Military Hospital Refurbishment Plan (PFHM), Defense Minister Agustín Rossi said.

As part of that project, Rossi supervised the installation of a generator and the refurbishing of the obstetric, neonatal, and dialysis departments when he visited the Central Aeronautical Hospital (HAC) in Buenos Aires on October 8. Such efforts, which will also include the renovations of the cardiac and intensive care units, are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“The goal of this program is to integrate the Armed Forces with the community,” Armando Mario Perichon, the Armed Forces’ Health and Welfare Coordinator, said of the PFHM, which was launched in November 2014. “We are renovating our hospitals to provide services not only to military personnel but also to civilians.”

Armed Forces officials began evaluating the military hospitals in 2013, when Defense Minister Rossi took office. Between December 2013 and April 2014, teams of doctors, nurses, psychologists, engineers, architects, and experts in human resources evaluated all 15 Armed Forces health centers.

“The teams visited each hospital for about a week and evaluated everything – from the medical aspects to the infrastructure to the equipment. Two goals were to recover the hospitals’ operational capabilities and to identify which ones could be opened to the public.”

Based on the recommendations they provided, the Ministry of Defense launched the program in November 2014.

Río Gallegos Hospital serves as a model

The Río Gallegos Hospital, in the capital of the province of Santa Cruz, was the first facility to be modernized, as a CT scanner and a digital sterilization system for surgical instruments were installed in November 2014.

“With an investment of 10 million pesos ($1.05 million), we completely overhauled a hospital that was essentially abandoned. We then opened it to the community,” Perichon said. “Today, the Military Hospital of Río Gallegos serves the needs of personnel from the Armed Forces in the morning and then serves the general public in the afternoon. On average, it offers around 130 consults a day, the majority of which are provided to the civilian population.”

Additionally, the Río Gallegos Military Hospital can also aid the most vulnerable, thanks to an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Health.

“For the first time, health vans from the Army and the Ministry of Health are visiting the city’s outskirts, bringing aid to those most in need.”

Additional Military hospitals open to the public

Some military hospitals that have been (or are being) modernized also provide healthcare to civilians -- including the Military Hospital of Salta, which now also provides services to patients in the Integrated Medical Attention Program (PAMI), a public assistance program that serves retirees and pensioners. And at the Naval Hospital of Buenos Aires, 30 percent of the patients are civilians, including Máximo Browarnik, an 86-year-old retiree who recently underwent an MRI.

“The treatment I received at the Naval Hospital was very good, and the equipment is state-of-the-art,” Browarnik said. “My cousin needed radiation therapy to treat his cancer, and the only place that had the necessary facilities was the Naval Hospital.”

The Armed Forces’ goal is for all 15 military hospitals, including the Central Military Hospital and the HAC that are in Buenos Aires, to serve the public.

“These are gargantuan facilities and are always full, since they receive patients who have been referred by other health centers throughout the country,” Perichon said. “Despite the high number of patients already at these facilities, we are still researching whether certain services with idle capacity could be opened to patients who are part of PAMI."

Variety of renovations

The renovations underway are particular to each hospital. For example, the Curuzú Cuatía Military Hospital in the province of Corrientes received a new power grid, but the Aeronautical Hospital of Córdoba received renovated gas lines and an overhauled surgical unit.

“We are doing a complete overhaul of infrastructure. Some hospitals have wiring from the 1940s, which is hazardous because old wiring can cause electrical short circuits.”

Such is the case with the Central Military Hospital in Buenos Aires, which also received two generators to ensure a continuous power supply. Meanwhile, at the Campo de Mayo Military Hospital in the province of Buenos Aires, workers are expanding the pharmacy and doubling the size of the laboratory to more than 400 square meters.

“We are also planning to construct a temperature-controlled medication room, locker rooms, warehouses, offices, and conference rooms,” the Defense Ministry wrote in a press release.

The HAC already is undergoing a complete remodeling of its Intensive Care Unit and will receive state-of-the-art equipment, while monitors, respirators, incubators, and HVAC systems are among the renovations in the labor, delivery, and neonatal areas. And in the dialysis department, nine maximum-comfort armchairs were installed for those undergoing treatment for chronic diseases. The Defense Ministry has also purchased a programmable 400 kVA generator for this hospital,” according to the Argentine Air Force’s News in Flight

Increased attention

Under PFHM, physicians at low-complexity hospitals in Argentina’s interior use the Progressive Increase in Attention Health Network to refer patients to high-tech facilities in neighboring provinces, avoiding a trip to the nation’s capital.

For example, doctors at the Naval Hospital in Ushuaia (low-complexity) in the extreme south can refer patients to the Military Hospital in Río Gallegos or the Naval Hospital in Puerto Belgrano in the province of Buenos Aires, which have acquired more services since being remodeled.

“In northern Argentina, we have the medium-complexity Military Hospital of Salta,” Perichon added. “However, we have greater technology available at the Military Hospital of Córdoba so patients can be referred there.”