First day of furloughs slows some services at Fort Benning

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 9, 2013 

On the first day of civilian furloughs, the Fort Benning Commissary was closed on Monday, it took longer for some services at Martin Army Community Hospital and fewer vehicles were spotted in the parking lots.

All changes are part of budgets cuts or sequestration that went into effect in March. About 4,000 civilian employees on post will work four days a week through Sept. 30 to complete 11 days of furloughs. The cuts will save $8 million on post and $1.8 billion throughout the Army.

Some of the furloughs were more visible than others on the post. “The parking lot was a little bit less than what it would be on a normal day, but other than that it was business as usual,” said Gary Jones, director of public affairs for the Maneuver Center of Excellence. “Obviously, the commissary was closed this time due to sequestration, but there were no lines there because it was closed. Other than that it was pretty much a normal day.”

Based on the activity from Monday, Jones said Mondays and Fridays likely will be the biggest days to impact the post on furloughs.

“Some things are by design slowing down a little bit,” he said. “We can’t do five days worth of work in four days even though you can try. We’re still getting the most important things done, when they need to be done. We may have to reprioritize here and there. That’s what planning is for.”

With about 250 of 1,231 civilians employees working at the Martin Army Hospital on furloughs Monday, public affairs spokeswoman Terry Beckwith said the hospital was operating at 80 percent. “At any given day of the week, we are only going to be operating at 80 percent,” she said. “Any given day 20 percent of our civilian staff will be out.”

Beckwith said the Army Medical Department is committed to providing quality patient care but it may take longer.

“It just may take longer for people to get an appointment or get their prescriptions refilled,” she said. “That is why I mention they can go online and use the email order pharmacy. They pay a small co-pay to get their medicine if they don’t want to sit down and wait longer.”

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