Officials at Brooke Army Medical Center are concerned about the prospect that one or more San Antonio-area hospitals will develop a new trauma center, a move likely to cut into patient loads at Brooke’s emergency room and hamper its medical training mission. Brooke, located on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, serves as a training hub for combat physicians. Its emergency room logs 80,000 visits a year — 80 percent of them civilians, reports the San Antonio Express-News. Last week, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Johnson, Brooke’s commanding general, told the San Antonio City Council that plans by two local hospitals to build trauma centers would threaten medical readiness and the quality of care at Brooke.
“I think how I would describe the risk is our ability, as the [DOD’s] only Level I trauma center, it is the jewel for where trauma training can take place,” Johnson said. “There is no other place in the DOD that can do it. So, if we were to lose the ability to train trauma, and sustain medical skills inside of trauma, our providers, our health professionals, would no longer be able to, on Day One, be able to meet our nation’s needs in a deployed setting.”
A top executive with University Health System, which operates the only other Level 1 trauma center in San Antonio, echoed Johnson’s concerns. “We should not underestimate this warning,” Dr. Bryan Alsip, University’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, told the council. “If our community cannot provide the commitment necessary to defend BAMC’s ability to maintain their mission readiness, our nation’s leaders will not hesitate to find another location that will be happy to welcome our military medical infrastructure.”
On Thursday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other council members expressed concern that the threat to trauma care at Brooke could jeopardize the medical training mission in San Antonio in a future BRAC round. They said they opposed expansion of trauma facilities by other hospitals, and the council approved a resolution supporting Brooke’s mission.