DHA Director Visits Guantanamo Bay, Discusses Medical Readiness

11 October 2021

From Dawn Grimes

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), and Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Shanna Woyak, director of DHA’s Small Market and Stand-Alone Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) Organization, visited U.S. Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Guantanamo Bay (NMRTC) Oct 6 – 8, to meet with leadership and hospital
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), and Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Shanna Woyak, director of DHA’s Small Market and Stand-Alone Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) Organization, visited U.S. Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Guantanamo Bay (NMRTC) Oct 6 – 8, to meet with leadership and hospital staff to learn directly about the facilities’ capabilities, resources, successes and challenges and to provide guidance and set expectations about the future of the Military Health System (MHS).

“These visits aren’t just about touring facilities – they’re how I gain valuable insight into the way policy decisions impact operations on the ground,” Place said. “They’re also a chance for me to listen to those doing the most important work there is in the MHS. Your feedback helps me understand the issues facing our teams at the MTFs and SSO and informs my strategic decisions for the Agency.”

During an evening tour of the hospital, Place met with night shift corpsmen and providers in the Multi-Service Ward (MSW) and emergency department. In addition to learning about capabilities and resources, Place asked what concerns them. ¬

“We’re a remote facility,” said Lt. Sarah Wolfe, a neo-natal nurse in the MSW. “I focus a lot on our supplies thinking about taking care of our babies, ‘what do we have, what do we need and how long would it take to get it?’ Because of our location and the challenges around receiving supplies, that’s something that we’re always thinking about.”

Following the hospital tour and visit with Joint Medical Group (Joint Task Force, GTMO) teams, Place shared a primary take¬¬¬away.
“In a remote location, service members and civilians learn to become a jack-of-all trades. They learn to cover down for their teammates and meet mission requirements under all conditions.” Place continued, “It’s evident that the entire Naval Station Guantanamo Bay team, from the Hospital to the Joint Task Force work to foster relationships and develop a family-like environment. Relationships are everything when delivering health care to the unique patient population on the island.”

During a hybrid in-person and virtual town hall with hospital staff at the installation auditorium, Place outlined the future of the MHS and its vital role in supporting the National Defense Strategy.

“Readiness means everyone in the front and everyone in the back, whatever they’re role, is medically ready to do their job--be it Army, Navy, Marine or Air Force. Making sure people are medically ready is who we are.”

The visit comes as the MHS is undergoing U.S. Congress-implemented reform efforts including organizational, infrastructure and manpower changes. The DHA has established a market-based structure within which U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay (USNH GB) is a small stand-alone facility, as opposed to one of multiple facilities within a region.
“We were pleased to show Lt. Gen. Place and Maj. Gen. Woyak the intricacies and uniqueness of our dynamic mission from the deck plate perspective,” said Capt. Dale Ramirez, commanding officer U.S. NMRTC and USNH GB.
“Not only delivering care to our beneficiaries, but to our thousands of non-enrollees and island residents. Additionally, we were able to showcase the unbreakable bond between our MTF and operations [with the] Joint Task Force. Like any multifaceted organization, it’s always about relationships.”
During the town hall, Place presented flag officer coins to recognize and honor selected corpsmen and civilian personnel nominated by their supervisors for outstanding contributions and service.

“Lt. Gen. Place participates in MTF site visits to connect with the staff doing the most important work there is in the MHS – health care delivery,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Benson, chief of the DHA Director’s Action Group.

U.S. Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay is a community-based facility providing health care to the Naval Station Guantanamo Bay community that consists of approximately 6,000 military, federal employees, U.S. and foreign national contractors and their families. The USNH GB also operates the only overseas military home health care facility providing care to elderly Special Category Residents who sought asylum on the installation during the Cuban Revolution.
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