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Kimbrough to curtail services by September Switch to clinic status means layoffs for 128


Kimbrough Army Community Hospital will close its in-patient services and emergency room at Fort Meade by June and lay off 128 employees by September.

The switch from a full-service, 36-bed hospital to what administrators call a "super clinic" is part of the downsizing of the military base.

"As part of the BRAC [Base Realignment And Closure] process, we had a committee that looks at how many beds were needed in the national capital area and they decided we have too many," said Col. Stephen L. Markelz, the Kimbrough administrator.

"This is not going to be very different from what civilian hospitals are experiencing," he said.

Kimbrough's in-patient services and emergency room is used by about 65 active duty and retired military personnel each day. The colonel said overnight stays at Kimbrough have been steadily declining.

On June 1, an Acute Care Clinic -- where patients can receive non-emergency care -- will begin operation. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Patients who need urgent or overnight care will be sent to North Arundel Hospital or Laurel Regional Hospital, officials said.

The hospital will continue its same-day surgeries, specialty care such as orthopedics and gynecology, and diagnostic services such as the pharmacy and laboratory. The 24-hour ambulance services also will continue, officials said.

The base's eye clinic and other health facilities that are housed in nearby buildings are expected to relocate to Kimbrough. The outpatient mental health services will expand as a satellite of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

Some military veterans warned that the closure of the emergency room will worry long-time members of the Fort Meade community.

"A lot of people in the area are older retirees and this is home to them," said Bob Eckford, a member of the base's retiree council. "They won't have this anymore."

County Councilman Bert Rice, whose district includes Fort Meade, said some of the veterans worry about care in civilian hospitals.

"They've probably never been in the doors [of a civilian hospital] before, so they're anxious about the levels of service and the kinds of service they'll receive."

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