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Life in the world’s busiest trauma hospital

April 8, 2011

An international team of doctors and nurses is keeping on top of trauma treatment at Camp Bastion hospital in Afghanistan with help from teams in Birmingham and York; writes Ian Carr for Defence Focus magazine.

On the wall of Colonel Robin Jackson’s office is a map of Task Force Helmand (South West) with the Role 3 hospital at Camp Bastion in the middle surrounded by concentric circles, like a target.

These are range rings. Each circle shows at a glance the distance a Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) can cover in a set time to reach a casualty.

The first boundary is ten minutes – five minutes out, and five back again. And every minute matters.

A member of the Afghan National Army being operated on in the Operating theatre of the Bastion Role 3 Hospital. Click on this image to listen to an audio commentary.

When a call comes in saying that casualties need to be evacuated, a range is taken from the map and the nearest appropriate aircraft is deployed.

Bastion is served by British MERTs whereby casualties are collected in Chinooks with Apaches providing escort protection, or Pedros where US Black Hawk helicopters are deployed:

“They each have pros and cons,” said Colonel Jackson, 207 Field Hospital’s Commanding Officer.

“MERTs are probably quicker in a straight line, but probably take longer to get off the ground and they have to wait for the Apaches to fire up. On the other hand a MERT has more medical equipment on board, a Pedro just carries medics.”

Camp Bastion’s hospital is the busiest trauma hospital in the world:

“We deal with 60 per cent of all ISAF, local, Afghan security forces and other casualties in Regional Command (South West), which is a 400-square-kilometre area within a 25-minute flight time. Although we can work out to an overall two-hour flight limit,” said Colonel Jackson.

Members of the MERT preparing the kit they'll need before the Chinook lands. Click on this image to listen to an audio documentary.

On the flight back to Bastion the casualties receive treatment, such as blood transfusions:

“We are always striving to improve, but the MERT is about as good as it gets,” he added.

“When patients arrive they are assessed in a highly co-ordinated way, you could describe it as a medical pit stop. The staff are military as well as being medically trained so skills and drills are second nature.”

To read the rest of this fascinating story, click HERE. BFBS also spent time with the MERT at Camp Bastion and their very moving audio documentary can be heard by clicking HERE or on either of the pictures above.

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