Commentary

May 4, 2012

LaBar’s Beat

Satellite Pharmacy is Tops!

By Ron LaBar
meds

I was talking to Barry Anderson of the Bullseye news staff last week when the subject of health and medications came up (as it invariably does sooner or later whenever us senior citizens get together).  Barry asked if I used the Satellite Pharmacy on Nellis for my prescriptions.  No, I replied, and admitted I had never even heard of the Satellite Pharmacy.  Barry suggested I do a feature story on it, and particularly the volunteers who run it.  He had been surprised that some of the volunteers were Korean War veterans, and many were from the Vietnam era.

The Satellite Pharmacy is located in Building 340, where the old BX Main Exchange stood.  It shares the building with Public Health, Aerospace Medicine, and the Heath and Wellness Clinic and the Mental Health Clinic.

According to Kate Leonard, volunteer liaison, who was kind enough to answer my questions and show me around, our Satellite Pharmacy is one of the largest pharmacies in the Air Force.  Kate, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has been in the pharmacy business for eleven years, including Air Force service in Germany and at Malstrom AFB, Montana.

I was impressed by the size of the facility and the state of the art equipment they use in their daily operations.  I half-expected to see a makeshift hole-in-the-wall kind of place.  Not so.  This place is top drawer all the way.  As kind of an expert on medical/pharmaceuticals waiting rooms, this place earns a twelve on my 10-point scale.  Two civilians and one military pharmacist are assigned to the Satellite Pharmacy, augmented by 43 volunteers.  Ten more volunteers work at the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center.  They will relocate to the new Veterans Administration Hospital when it opens.

I asked Kate who could use the pharmacy.  The answer is active duty and retired members of all the uniformed services and their dependents, as well as Guard and Reserve personnel on orders.  She said that the typical customer is retired military and their dependents.  Anybody authorized to use Tricare can use the pharmacy.  The best part of all is – it’s free!  Prescriptions are filled at no charge, and you get a three-month supply for each fill and refill.

The Satellite Pharmacy is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.  Three drive-through windows are for pick up (next day, usually) and drop off.  They were installed last month.  You can also order refills by phone.

Flight Commander and Officer in Charge of the facility is Lt. Col. Christina Zotto, assigned to the 99th Medical Support Squadron.  Her Noncommisssioned Officer in Charge is Tech. Sgt. Johannes Oribello.  Colonel Zotto told me that some of the volunteers have been doing this kind of service for close to 20 years.

Although the active and retired military and their dependents from Southern Nevada make up the bulk of the Pharmacy customers, a significant number of clients come from Arizona, Utah and Southern California.  Some are “snowbirds’ from points north who park their RVs in the “sunny Southwest” for the winter.

Ms. Leonard told me that when Walgreens stopped accepting Tricare, there was a big push from their competitors (particularly CVS)  to pick up those customers.  She noted that the Satellite Pharmacy also actively sought to recruit former Walgreens Tricare clientele.

I asked Kate if the new Veterans Administration hospital would impact the pharmacy’s customer base.  “No”, she replied.  “Remember that we take active duty, retired and Guard and Reserve on orders.  Veterans don’t qualify for us, unless retired or active duty.”

I asked her that if I switched from Tricare to the pharmacy, how much hassle would be involved?  She showed me.  With a few identifiers (identification cards, etc.) she called up my entire drug history, both Tricare and CVS on her computer.  Wow! Impressive!

I got a chance to talk to a few of the volunteers between customers.  I could tell right away that this was a pleasant, friendly workplace.  Everybody had a smile on their face, and was eager to contribute.  Kate told me that many (or most) of them volunteer elsewhere on base or in the community.

Frank Provenzano is a good example.  Frank retired out of Nellis in 1975 with 23 years of service.  Eighty-one years young, he has received many awards for his volunteer work, at the pharmacy and at the base chapel.  He’s most proud of being a top candidate for the Presidential Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Big Al” Wyland, a retired Command Master Chief in the U.S. Navy, has been a volunteer for eight years, and thoroughly enjoys his work.

I also talked to Nancy McAllister, a long-time volunteer, who recently received the 2012 Volunteer Excellence Award for Nellis AFB.  She, too, is a “multiple volunteer”.

A big “hoo-ray” for Kate and the men and women who volunteer their time and energy to making the Satellite Pharmacy a world class facility we can all be proud of.  If you want to join this elite group of volunteers call Kate Leonard at 653-2747.

The rewards are many for those who volunteer their time.



About the Author

Ron LaBar
Ron LaBar
If you have an article covering Veteran issues, Airmen who are doing something special in the Las Vegas community, or other human interest stories you'd like to see about and for our Nellis Airmen, just e-mail the Bullseye@aerotechnews.com and we will hook you up with Ron and he'll contact you.


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