WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE -- Wright-Patterson Medical Center treats thousands of airmen and their families every year, and it has become a bigger draw to more military retirees in search of medical care, figures show.
Since 2006, the hospital has treated 8 percent more retirees, hospital officials said.
The 88th Medical Group, which runs the hospital, also scored at the top of 58 military medical treatment facilities surveyed around the world for overall hospital ranking and patients who would recommend the treatment center, according to the 2012 TRICARE Inpatient Satisfaction Survey.
The ranking placed the hospital ahead of more well-known medical centers such as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the survey showed.
"It permeates through our building that we put the patient first in everything that we do," said Col. Penelope Gorsuch, 88th Medical Group deputy commander and chief nurse.
Now in the midst of a $90 million modernization, the Wright-Patterson hospital has become one of several factors retirees consider when they choose to live in the Dayton area, said Bryan J. Bucklew, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.
"I think it has just as much weight as the cost of living and the amenities in the region," he said.
The medical center has a $137 million budget and treats more than 300,000 patients a year with a staff of about 2,100 military and civilian employees. Military service members represent two-thirds of the staff. Some 37,000 patients out of 57,000 people who are eligible were enrolled in medical treatment programs, according to Col. Stephen Higgins, 88th Medical Group commander.
"It draws people in because we are the only game in town for it," said Daniel Druzbacky, 57, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who's also a hospital employee.
A University of Cincinnati College of Business study released in January 2010 showed the Air Force hospital had a $414.7 million impact and supported 3,592 jobs throughout the Dayton metropolitan statistical area. The spending included both hospital operating expenses and the impact of spending on staffing, goods and services in 2008.
Woody Stroud, a retired Ohio Air National Guard lieutenant colonel, is among those military retirees who chose the base hospital for primary care.
The 71-year-old Spring Valley Township resident said he made that choice because of the quality of care and the access to prescriptions at little or no cost at a hospital pharmacy.
"The fact that Wright-Patterson was nearby was significant and helped me cement my relationship with the community," he said.
Statistics weren't available on how many retirees decisions to live here was influenced because of the hospital. However, Phillip L. Parker, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said many people have told him of the importance "to get good health care without having to travel long distances."
In a snapshot of the survey:
-- Patients gave the hospital high marks in overall medical and surgical care with 86 percent and 85 percent of those surveyed, respectively, rating services a 9 or 10.
-- The hospital scored the lowest in obstetrics and gynecology, with 59 percent of those surveyed rating services a 9 or 10. * Eighty-seven and 88 percent of respondents, respectively, reported they would "definitely" recommend the hospital's medical and surgical care while 66 percent said the same about obstetrics and gynecological services.
While the hospital anticipates furloughs among some civilian workers and has cut spending because of sequestration, patients' medical care will not be in jeopardy, said Col. Brent Erickson, hospital administrator.
"All of that is still here," he said. "It's not going away."
Apart from the high patient satisfaction survey results, the hospital has not been without difficulties in recent years.
Last August, the 88th Medical Group alerted about 3,800 people of a possible security data breach when a notebook containing blood donor names and their Social Security numbers was temporarily misplaced. The notebook had been left overnight in a conference room, officials said.
Last July, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reported the medical center could not find a rice-sized piece of radioactive medical material used with a portable nuclear gamma camera. The federal agency had notified the hospital of a failure to conduct a semiannual inventory of a sealed medical source and failure to properly secure the source. A Wright-Patterson spokesman said the hospital took "strong corrective measures" because of the incident.
In July 2010, a hospital medical privacy officer ordered an investigation after a filing cabinet containing 2,123 patient records was temporarily moved from a locked room to an unlocked room. The records, however, never left the facility, said Wright-Patterson spokesman William Hancock. "As soon it was discovered they had medical records, they were secured again," he said.