Marine Corps building new health facility
Parris Island personnel and recruits can take advantage of medical services provided at Branch Health Clinic
Published Tuesday April 4 2006
The Beaufort Gazette

During training on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, recruits endure a number of tasks that test their endurance and courage -- miles of grueling runs, combat training, rough drill instructors -- and dental exams.

With a new $22 million health clinic under construction, the medical staff hopes to cut down the time and cost of processing 19,000 recruits per year, said officials at Naval Hospital Beaufort, which runs the clinics on Beaufort's bases.

Building of the 85,000-square-foot Branch Health Clinic began on Parris Island about a year ago, and construction nears the halfway mark.

The new clinic will be about twice the size of the current one next to it and is scheduled to open in April 2007, said hospital spokeswoman Patricia Binns. The old clinic is slated for demolition in October 2007 to make room for a parking lot.

All the services from the current medical clinic will move to the new health facility, Binns said. Only the recruit processing will move out of the base's dental clinic across the street into the Branch Health Clinic, while the specialty dental services will remain at its present location.

In addition to numerous services such as immunizations and acute care, the clinic also will include a small laboratory, pharmacy, radiology department and a room specifically designed to treat heat cases.

Patients will include recruits and active-duty Parris Island personnel, Binns said.

Cmdr. Arthur Giguere, director of the depot clinic, said the new clinic will not only be roomier but also better set up than the current T-shaped clinic, where pressured recruits hustle by active-duty members squished into a narrow corridor awaiting primary care. Instead, the recruit in-processing and primary care areas will be on opposite sides of the building, with some specialist care in between, he said.

Each recruit who arrives on Parris Island has a dental exam, complete with X-rays, and initiates a dental record, Binns said. Recruits with dental disease, defect or trauma are given a treatment plan, which Binns said could cost up to several thousands of dollars.

The new clinic will have 100 percent radiography and "filmless" X-rays that will cut down on processing chemicals and storage costs, said Cmdr. John Vandemark, associate director of the Branch Health Clinic and Dental Clinic at the depot.

The new health clinic will also provide specialty dental care for active-duty members of the entire Tri-Command, including root canals, gum disease treatment and complex bridge, crown and implant restoration, Vandemark said.

Recruits also undergo a battery of immunizations, optometry exams, lab tests and screening at the clinic on their first night of boot camp.

Recruits are given immunizations to prevent diseases from spreading in their "dormitory" lifestyle, Binns said, adding the medical clinic sees about 180,000 visits per year with the recruit processing requirements.

For a platoon of recruits to undergo medical and dental exams on the first night, it takes about two to three hours, Giguere said. But they hope the new clinic's efficiency and $27 million in equipment upgrades will shave that time by 30 to 40 minutes per platoon. Though that might not seem much at first, with about six platoons a week for 48 weeks per year, it adds up to quite a few training days.

"It gives the Marines more time to train recruits," Giguere said. "It's all about how can we support a training environment. The less time they spend with us in medical, the better off they'll be in their job."