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Congressmen Castro And Doggett Want Brooke Army Medical To Help San Antonio With COVID-19 Caseload

Photo courtesy BAMC Public Affairs

As coronavirus cases surge in Bexar County and hospitals near capacity, U.S. Representatives Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro are urging Brooke Army Medical Center to do more to help.

Fort Sam Houston’s Brooke Army Medical Center won’t take civilian coronavirus patients unless they are military dependents or retirees. Pentagon policy bars it from doing so.

Congressmen Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro are throwing their weight behind efforts to change that. 

“We put in immediate inquiries, both to the Defense Department and to the Armed Services Committee in the House to see what we can do to remove obstacles,” Doggett said. “This is an opportunity for our San Antonio neighbors that work at BAMC and the facilities of BAMC to be available to help us at a time of great need.”

In a joint statement, the two congressmen recalled the decision to send Army doctors from BAMC to the northeastern U.S. earlier this spring to help deal with coronavirus hotspots there. 

“In March, BAMC personnel were dispatched to New York City to aid COVID efforts there, and right now the need is here. BAMC is a world-class care center, yet their hands are tied from performing live-saving work. Defense Secretary Esper should promptly approve our request to save San Antonian lives,” they said. 

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg have also pushed for BAMC’s assistance in recent days, emphasizing the community’s historical ties to its military installations

In late June, the state of Texas asked the Pentagon for permission to incorporate BAMC into its coronavirus crisis response framework. No answers have come down yet.

With the BAMC request pending, the Army sent medical teams from Fort Carson, Colorado this week to embed with civilian hospitals that are under stress. They come from the 627th Hospital Center and include emergency room and critical care nurses, respiratory specialists and other support staff.

Since 1995, Brooke Army Medical Center has treated civilian trauma patients as part of south Texas’ regional emergency healthcare system. That partnership was designed to help maintain the readiness of military personnel, allowing them to treat severe, warzone-type injuries away from the front lines. 

For now, the plan is to use Freeman Coliseum as a makeshift treatment center for non-COVID patients in the event that local hospitals become overwhelmed. Bexar County Precinct 2 commissioner Justin Rodriguez toured that facility earlier this week, and warned that the county was “days away” from needing it. 

Carson Frame can be reached at Carson@TPR.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame.

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Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.