Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Medics saving lives on front line

Northern Ireland medics are helping to save the lives of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan
Northern Ireland medics are helping to save the lives of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan

More than 30 medics from Northern Ireland are helping to save the lives of wounded soldiers from Afghanistan's front line.

The doctors and nurses are among a team of TA reservists from 204 Squadron (North Irish) Field Hospital (Volunteer) who took over responsibility for the biggest army hospital in the war zone.

More than half the unit is made up of staff from the five health trusts across Northern Ireland including consultants, surgeons, doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and radiographers who have joined reservists from non-healthcare organisations and regular soldiers at Camp Bastion.

Although the tempo of battle is significantly slower than in previous years - there were just seven patients in the wards last week - the medics are in a constant state of readiness.

Colonel Alan Black, from Northern Ireland, who is 204 Field Hospital Commanding Officer, said: "The pace is probably slower than it would have been two years ago, which is brilliant. Essentially the fewer patients that we see the happier we are. It means that fewer people are getting injured or becoming ill. But, I have to say the team is working exceptionally well."

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

Colonel Black, an occupational physician, said: "The level of care that is delivered here is amazing for battle injured casualties. I have absolutely no doubt that people survive here who would not survive elsewhere and probably, I include, even back home in Belfast."

The number of British casualties has fallen significantly, with the Afghan National Army, who are now leading operations on the ground, bearing the brunt of the injuries. Surgeons, who previously honed their skills in Belfast hospitals, are now gaining valuable experience in Helmand.

Colonel Black said: "What is different about this hospital is the nature of the injuries that are seen by individuals, and while fortunately the tempo of battle is relatively modest, the injuries that some unfortunate individuals sustain are severe and unlike injuries that doctors would see in most other centres, certainly within the UK.

"This is a unique experience and clinically, (for the) doctors and nurses here this is a wonderful opportunity for them to get that experience that they simply wouldn't get anywhere else."

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