Former Keesler Medical Chief Discusses Proposed Cutbacks

A former chief of staff at Keesler Medical Center says he's not surprised by proposed cutbacks recommended by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's recommendations to BRAC suggest eliminating in-patient surgeries at Keesler, a move that could mean the loss of several hundred jobs.

Many people were surprised when the base closure process recommended essentially converting Keesler Medical Center into an out patient clinic. Dr. Stephen McDavid was not.

He saw changes coming when he served as chief of the medical staff at Keesler for nearly five years.

Keesler Medical Center was the final assignment in Dr. McDavid's military medical career. He was chief of the medical staff for more than four years.

"When you're struggling to keep patients to maintain programs, you've got to look at what are some other ways to look at this to better fit the need. And the need really is on the out patient," said Dr. McDavid.

The Pentagon's recommendation calls for eliminating in patient surgeries and overnight stays, to concentrate on out patient care.

"If they can do it smarter and re-consolidate, I don't think it's necessarily a loss either to the active duty or retired personnel in this area, because I think they'll still get their health care," he said.

Many military retirees would be directed to civilian doctors and medical centers. The re-tooling of Keesler, Dr. McDavid believes, would actually make the medical center more efficient for its primary mission.

"Keesler is a training center, with lots of young airmen coming out of basic training. And their medical needs are primarily out patient, orthopedic, sports injuries. Same things with their families," he said.

Dr. McDavid says the prescription for change at Keesler may be a difficult pill to swallow initially, but should prove beneficial for long term efficiency and security.

"Knowing that while I was there, there was a lot of effort to try and keep programs open that were struggling because of a lack of patients. I felt that this was probably going to be inevitable even two or three years ago," said Dr. McDavid.

He stressed that he has no problem with the quality of medical care at Keesler. He calls it among the best available. But he says there are ways to make the delivery of that health care more efficient.