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Fort Drum clinic loses medical employees in connection to militarywide furloughs

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FORT DRUM — A total of 56 employees at the post’s Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic — about 10 percent of the facility’s workers — quit or retired from their jobs as the post dealt with militarywide furloughs.

The departures occurred from early March, when furloughs first were discussed locally, to Aug. 23, when workers returned to a full schedule after six weeks of furloughs. The facility has about 500 employees.

“It has stressed our resources, but we are fulfilling our mission in full,” Col. Stanley F. Gould, deputy commander for the post’s clinical services, said in a statement issued Friday morning.

Capt. Rebecca S. Newton, spokeswoman for the post’s Medical Department Activity, or MEDDAC, said Friday that she could not specify the roles the departing employees were in, but confirmed they were a mix of civilian employees and contractors.

Loren J. Zeilnhofer, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 400, said medical employees have worked hard despite the fiscal challenges around them.

“These guys are really hurting for resources, and I gotta say these guys are just tired,” he said. “Everybody’s trying their hardest. Sometimes you just burn out.”

Medical employee losses across the military were reported Wednesday by USA Today.

Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, the Army’s surgeon general, told the paper that approximately one in 20 of her workers quit in connection with the furloughs, or about 2,700 out of 42,000 civilian health employees. The paper’s report noted that the Air Force and Navy also had employee departures linked to the furloughs. The lost workers served in a variety of roles, including clinicians, scientists, researchers, administrators and other specialties.

Gen. Horoho said she linked the exodus to the instability that furloughs created for the current fiscal year, along with the looming uncertainty about what will happen in the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

As a part of the ongoing sequestration, the Pentagon will have to cut up to $54 billion from current spending totals for the 2014 budget year.

Gen. Horoho also told the newspaper that many of the exiting workers moved to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which did not face the same budget cuts the service branches faced.

The USA Today story can be found at http://wdt.me/Y8cN23.

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