Brief History

The William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC) and the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System (EPVAHCS) have shared resources since the early 1970s. At that time, the VA canceled plans to build a hospital in El Paso when the Army agreed to provide inpatient care to VA beneficiaries in the WBAMC, which was then under construction. The El Paso DoD/VA joint venture started in 1987, when the VA needed to replace its outpatient clinic. A working group between the two organizations agreed to an arrangement in which the VA built its new, larger VA Eastside El Paso Clinic (VA Clinic) adjacent to the WBAMC. The clinic opened in 1995, and each floor is physically connected and has open access to the WBAMC. The Army provides inpatient care to VA beneficiaries in El Paso, who account for 26 percent of inpatient services provided at the WBAMC. VA staff share an 8-room ambulatory surgical suite and 16-bed recovery area on the fourth floor of the WBAMC with Army staff. The VA Clinic’s staff provides primary and behavioral health care, specialty services, dental services, and ambulatory surgery to veterans and has two ambulatory surgery suites available for use by the WBAMC. In 2008, the VA opened a 29,000-square-foot addition to the clinic for physical therapy, behavioral health, and podiatry programs. While the WBAMC underwent renovations to its post-anesthesia care unit (completed in 2009), the VA allowed Army staff to use the ambulatory surgery suite in the clinic. The Texas Tech University School of Medicine has a consortium agreement with the EPVAHCS and the WBAMC to train residents in internal medicine and psychiatry. The WBAMC’s graduate medical education program (GME) is open to VA medical residents (AMEDD, 2012; DoD/VA, 2002, 2008b; GAO, 2007; Hite, 2011; U.S. Senate, 1980; VA, 2012b; VA/DoD, 2002, 2006).

Because of Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) actions and other shifts of personnel, Fort Bliss is expanding substantially. By 2014, it is slated to be the third largest Army installation in the United States after Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. TRICARE Prime enrollment at the WBAMC is expected to double, to more than 110,000. In anticipation of this large increase in demand for health care, the Army began to plan for a major expansion of health care facilities, including a new $966 million hospital in a new location about 10 miles away in East El Paso. The new WBAMC hospital replacement project was awarded in 2009, ground was broken in 2011, and the inpatient facility is scheduled to open in 2016 (Wirtemburg and Ancker, 2008).

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