Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Medics return from Afghanistan

Colonel Alan Black says he is proud of the unit's effort during the three-month stint in Afghanistan

Medics who spent months saving lives at a British military hospital in war-torn Afghanistan are returning to their families in Northern Ireland.

The 30 Territorial Army volunteers, who escaped injury during a rocket attack at the sprawling Camp Bastion base in February, had responsibility for the biggest army medical facility in the war zone.

The unit, which has its headquarters at Hydebank in south Belfast, included consultants, surgeons, doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and radiographers from Northern Ireland's five main health trusts as well as non-healthcare professionals.

Colonel Alan Black, Commanding Officer of 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital, said he was proud of their effort during the three-month stint.

"I am sometimes asked what the differences are between regular and reserve personnel on operations. The answer is simple - there are none. It just is not an issue given that the only consideration is whether the individual can do their job or not," said Colonel Black.

"I have never been asked by a patient whether the doctor or nurse treating them is regular or reserve. From the perspective of the seriously ill patient with the heart attack in the emergency department, or the soldier brought in from the battlefield with severe blast injuries from an improvised explosive device, their principal concern is that they should get the best possible care. This is exactly what they get and I have no doubt that many people were saved in Bastion who would simply have not survived elsewhere."

The TA soldiers worked alongside regular and reservists from across the UK as well as medical staff from the US Army, US Marine Corps and Danish Armed Forces to treat troops, Afghan nationals and Taliban insurgents wounded on the front line.

The Camp Bastion field hospital is one of the best equipped anywhere. It has an eight-bay emergency department, 12 intensive care beds, four operating theatres and a 40-bed ward, plus four side rooms and two isolation booths. There are two CT scanners, four X-ray machines, rapid blood infusers and a radiology unit that is linked via satellite to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Despite the severity of injuries of those being brought into the Bastion trauma unit the survival rate for patients is 97.7% - among the highest anywhere in the world.

Last October Co Down-born medic Corporal Channing Day, 25, who served with 3 Medical Regiment, died after being shot during a firefight with insurgents in Helmand province.

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