Life at the 'Lik: Urgent and emergency care at and around Incirlik, and knowing the difference

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's note: This article is part of a series designed to provide in-depth information to both current and future members of Team Incirlik about topics specific to Incirlik and Turkey. The goal is to assist Airmen and families in making informed decisions about their move to the area and to provide guidance about local policies, procedures and quality of life matters.

Getting emergency or urgent medical care can be pretty challenging at an overseas location without the proper knowledge. Knowing what to do, who to call, or even where to go can be crucial in medical emergencies. At Incirlik AB, there are several options and informational tools that are helpful in being squared away when or if the moment arises.

The 39th Medical Group staff stressed the importance of knowing the difference between emergent, urgent and routine care. Emergency care is defined as something threatening life, limb or eyesight. Urgent care is defined as a non-emergent, but acute illness or injury that requires urgent attention and cannot wait until normal duty hours. Routine care would include all other medical concerns and specialty categories such as women's health and immunizations. 

"The biggest difference is that we do not have someone staffed at all times or have an emergency room," said Capt. Elaina Wild, 39th MDG family medicine practitioner. "What we have is a doctor on duty 24/7 for one week, which means we are in the clinic all day then we carry a phone at night."

The clinic offers urgent and emergency care after-duty hours, but is limited to what they can perform due to not having an emergency room or specialty care that is provided at an off-base hospital. Hospitals can provide laboratories, X-rays and other special needs the on-base facility doesn't offer.

"We have limited resources," said Capt. Thomas Skinner, 39th MDG family medicine practitioner. "We [on-call physicians] are a limited resource as well."

The medical officer on duty is the physician who is available after clinic hours for emergencies. The MOD is always available if needed to get emergency or urgent care if they can support the need. In some cases, the patient is transferred to a downtown emergency room which is staffed with the necessary people and equipment.

"Our facility provides an after-hours urgent care line as opposed to an emergency room," said Wild. "We are always happy if someone has a question about it [emergency or urgent care] to do the triage for it, but essentially the after-hour's care that is provided here is not for things that could normally be taken care of during business hours."

The question also may arise; if I have to go to an emergency room downtown, do I need a referral? The answer is no referral is needed. Treatment can be received and then the paperwork can be accomplished after being seen.

For hospital information, Tricare provides business cards to newly arrived personnel at the Newcomer's Brief that have locations and translations of common phrases for use in Turkish hospitals in case of emergencies. The cards can also be picked up upon request from the Tricare office.
 
Along with the provided information, the 39th MDG and Tricare want to ensure the best care for servicemembers and their families. In doing so, translators are available upon a request or scheduled basis to accompany patients to an off-base hospital for both routine care and emergencies.

"They [hospitals] are very familiar with us and with our Tricare system and there is always a liaison down there that is familiar with the process," said Wild. "We also have patient liaisons at the facility here that can go with patients, but [they are] not always available."

The goal of the 39th MDG is to maximize the health of the 39th Air Base Wing by supporting multiple missions and ensuring wartime readiness. They strive to provide servicemembers and their families with the best health care possible so Team Incirlik can always be Forward, Ready, Now.

"A lot of things we can take care of in this facility, and that is what we are here for," said Wild. "That is our mission: to serve the troops here so we are always available; you can always call."

For emergency medical assistance call 112.

For more information call the MDG main line at 676-6666 or Tricare at 676-8763. Also, you can check out the link here.