Gender Issues:

Medical Support for Female Soldiers Deployed to Bosnia

NSIAD-99-58: Published: Mar 10, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on whether adequate medical services were available to service members deployed to the field, focusing on the: (1) availability of data collected on female soldiers' health care needs in Bosnia; and (2) views of health care officials and female soldiers on female-specific services and health-related issues in Bosnia.

GAO noted that: (1) outpatient health care data is collected from medical treatment facilities in Bosnia, but this data has limited value for assessing the health care needs of deployed female soldiers; (2) data collected on non-female-specific health problems is not broken out by gender; (3) while data on gynecological visits is collected, this data does not show the specific reasons for each visit; (4) consequently, the types and extent of women's health care needs, including female-specific needs, cannot be quantified; (5) collecting this data would enable the Army to study the everyday aspects of the gynecological health of military women, especially in field conditions, and to identify and correct any shortfalls in medical services provided to deployed women; (6) health care officials, including primary care providers who staffed the base camp clinics and the hospital, told GAO that the Army's health service support system in Bosnia was capable of meeting the female-specific health care needs of women; (7) about two-thirds of the women GAO surveyed who reported having gynecological problems said all or most of their female-specific health care needs were met while in Bosnia, while the other one-third said only a few or none of their female-specific health care needs were met; (8) female soldiers expressed some concerns about the Army's medical services and other health-related issues in Bosnia; (9) a frequent complaint was the lack of information on these subjects provided to women before they deployed; (10) women said they would have benefited from more information on how to prepare for an impending deployment, for example, information on the availability of female-specific medications and supplies, on the health care system that would serve them during the deployment, and on best practices for staying healthy; and (11) women also expressed concerns about the quality of medical support provided to them and about the privacy and confidentiality of care at the clinics, which were described as very small and lacking interior walls and doors to shield individuals being examined.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While the Department of the Army has reviewed care for female servicemembers and has prepared guides to enhance female readiness, the Army has not required units to provide information to deploying female soldiers on female-specific health care and hygiene. The Department of the Army established a well women's care process action team that produced a report entitled "Well Women's Care in the U.S. Army." The team's report was approved. Army staff were to be assigned to develop responses to the report's recommendations for the Office of the Surgeon General and the Army Medical Command. In addition, the Army developed a leader's guide on female readiness and posted this guide on its Web site.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should take steps to improve the preparation of female soldiers for deployment by requiring units to provide information on female-specific health care and hygiene. Included should be information on the health services available to them once deployed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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