New clinic makes expecting mothers’ lives easier
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Clinic aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is projected to move into a new and improved building in July 2017.
The new clinic will be four stories high with twice the manpower and an increased number of laboratories, obstetrics and gynecology capabilities, pediatricians and many other things in accordance with the Defense Policy Review Initiative.
The DPRI redefines roles, missions and capabilities of alliance forces and outlines key realignment and transformation initiatives, including reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa, enhancing interoperability and communication between the two countries’ respective commands, and broadening cooperation in the area of ballistic missile defense, according to the U.S. Department of State’s website.
According to Cmdr. Evangeline Allen, officer-in-charge of the Branch Health Clinic, the most relevant addition to the new clinic will be its capability to assist pregnant patients during child birth.
“Traveling to (Yokosuka Naval Base) or (Iwakuni Clinical Care) to deliver is a mothers only two options,” said Allen. “ICC eventually closed due to renovation, so for a while Yokosuka was the only option, and as budget cuts were made to medical evacuation, it made it much more difficult for families to travel with the mother to Yokosuka.”
The decision to add delivery capabilities came from the command at BHC and the station realizing that having the ability to deliver babies aboard station would prevent pregnant mothers from traveling far and leaving their families and friends.
“If I had the option to stay here to give birth I would have definitely stayed, it’s much more convenient,” said Chief Petty Officer Katherine Swanson, leading chief petty officer at BHC. “When you go to Yokosuka, you’re basically just sitting there waiting for your baby to come vice staying at home and maintaining your active life. Also, in the case that something comes up, like if I was giving birth and needed someone to watch my kid, being home allows me to have family and friends around for support.”
With budget cuts, the father’s squadron can make the decision to allow him to take temporary additional duty leave and stay in Yokosuka with his wife, but some commands may tell fathers they have to use their personal leave instead.
The Navy will only pay for five days, the father can choose to use them to go with the mother and help her settle in or go when she gives birth and be able to come back with her, but scheduling that can be problematic.
“Now that it’s more difficult to send the family along, pregnant patients could be sent to Yokosuka to give birth with no support at all,” said Allen. “Also, by sending the patient and her family to Yokosuka, they’re taking the active duty service member away from their duty and taking the patient away from her support system, her friends, neighbors and coworkers.”
Although ICC is in the local area outside of the station and families would not have to travel as far if they chose to go there, they would run into the issues of having a language barrier and Japanese medicine and food that they’re not used to.
“Most women would prefer not having to travel that long distance but also be able to go to a facility where they’re able to easily communicate with doctors and nurses,” said Allen.
The choice of going to either Yokosuka or ICC will still be an option to pregnant patients when the new clinic opens.
“Fortunately for me, my family was able to go with me to Yokosuka and stayed the whole time,” said Swanson. “But I think staying at home would definitely be a better choice and I believe other mothers would appreciate having that as an option.”