With little fanfare, Kimbrough Army Community Hospital at Fort Meade will close its emergency room at midnight today and cease to be a hospital with inpatient services.
But it's not quite the end for an institution that has been a part of the Army installation for almost 80 years.
Kimbrough will re-open tomorrow morning with all its outpatient clinics intact and an Acute Minor Illness Clinic in place of the emergency room.
"The assumption is we're going to turn the lights out and lock the doors on the first of June, and that's not true," said Maj. Derick Ziegler, deputy commander of administration at the hospital.
"Kimbrough is not closing as a facility," Ziegler added. "We're changing."
The reduction from a 36-bed hospital with 475 employees to an ambulatory care center with 347 employees was necessitated by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1995.
"It's sad," said Jose Ritenour, 71, who remembers giving birth in 1958 in Kimbrough's previous World War II-era building.
The Laurel resident, widow of a military retiree, said she is not worried about losing medical services.
"They've always taken care of us, and they still will," she said. The change at the facility will mean that people with life-threatening emergencies who would have come to Kimbrough's emergency room will go to North Arundel Hospital or another hospital close to them.
Active-duty and retired military personnel and their dependents will have to travel to military hospitals in Washington, Bethesda or Prince George's County, or check into a civilian hospital for medical care that requires an overnight stay.
Hospital officials stress that the change from hospital to ambulatory care center won't be drastic.
"Ninety percent of our business is outpatient or ambulatory, and that's going to continue," said Col. David Roberts, commander of the hospital since August 1994.
But, he added, there will be differences.
"If you thought you were having a heart attack, you would not want to come to the Acute Minor Illness Clinic. If you thought you had a cold or pneumonia, you would come," Roberts said.
Kimbrough's 24-hour emergency room saw an average of 69 patients a day in fiscal year 1995; only eight of those were true emergency cases, according to Ziegler.
That's compared to more than 1,000 outpatients cases that came through on a typical day in the same year.
The new clinic will see patients on a walk-in basis for nonlife-threatening ailments from 7: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Kimbrough will offer evening appointments for the first time at some outpatient clinics, such as the pediatrics unit.
Pub Date: 5/31/96