SANANTONIO -- It s the end of an era at Wilford Hall Medical Center. The Lackland Air Force Base hospital emergency department is closing its doors.

This is all part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) plan passed by Congress in 2005. Air Force emergency doctors are moving to Brooke Army Medical Center.

Over the past few decades, thousands upon thousands of patients have poured through the emergency department at Wilford Hall, receiving world-class care while military doctors trained to treat the casualties of war.

That s all changing starting July 1,when the hospital will no longer accept emergency patients, switching to an Urgent Care Center instead.

So we just need to really stress if you have a real emergent condition, a threat to life, limb or eyesight, that you re better served by going to, ideally, Brooke Army Medical Center, or if the condition doesn t warrant it, to the nearest civilian emergency department, explained Lt. Col. Patrick Muehlberger, commander of the 59th Emergency Medical Squadron.

For years, San Antonio was spoiled with three Level 1 trauma centers: University, BAMC and Wilford Hall. Trauma care stopped at Wilford last summer. Now, the Air Force emergency specialists are teaming up with Army doctors, leaving what some say is a bit of a hole in terms of emergency medical services on the city s southwest side.

Wilford Hall emergency department is not really going away, Muehlberger said. Our guys and gals are just moving across town. We ll still be providing cutting edge emergency department care that s very patient centered right alongside our Army brethren over at Brooke Army Medical Center.

The Urgent Care Center that opens in July in the old ER will treat acute minor illnesses and injuries, but no one under the age of two. It will be open to walk-ins 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can use it if you re a Department of Defense beneficiary.

Wilford Hall estimates about 30,000 of its former ER cases can be seen at the new Urgent Care Center. But that still leaves thousands of patients who will have to go elsewhere.
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