Imagine having to construct a hospital complete with a full operating theatre, intensive care units and recovery wards anywhere in the world at only five days’ notice and only four days to build it – well that’s the daunting task asked of our High Readiness Hospital.
As the Army Medical Service’s 22 Field Hospital are next to assume that mantle they have been put through their paces and tested on their ability to establish a full working hospital under canvass inside of 24hrs, for its initial operating capacity and then 3-4 days to full capability. Ex CHIRON CERTIFY was 22 Field Hospital’s validation exercise and on successful completion will mean they are set to deploy world-wide at a mere 5 days’ notice.
"All you’d expect to see in a civilian hospital we have had to transport to this location, build it, set it up and operate it. Getting it to all work together in a very short period of time is a real challenge" Commanding Officer of 22 Field Hospital, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Hale
Praising his staff, the Commanding Officer of 22 Field Hospital, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Hale said, “This is an incredibly challenging test for us, all our personnel are really used to doing their jobs in NHS Hospital settings but bringing everything together and making it work in a deployable hospital is really challenging. All you’d expect to see in a civilian hospital we have had to transport to this location, build it, set it up and operate it. Getting it to all work together in a very short period of time is a real challenge. The people here have done a great job. Traditionally we built large field hospitals, but as the Army modernises and transforms, we, in the last few years, have developed a smaller more agile surgical capability and we are using these right now on operations in the Middle East and Africa. We are held at five days’ notice to deploy; that’s the people, the kit everything that goes to provide this fantastic facility needs to be ready to go when we are called."
Many of 22 Field Hospital’s clinical staff and practitioners work for the NHS within Ministry of Defence Hospital Units around the country – Army doctors and nurses serving in civilian hospitals. They are called in when needed to deploy or go on exercise such as this. It means the ranks of 22 Field Hospital swell from around 125 to 450 and with it the additional logistical challenge of water provision and purification, power to operate the hospital, accommodation, sanitation and feeding, all of which has to be able to deploy anywhere in the world within 5 days.
Ex CHIRON CERTIFY tested 22 Field Hospital with a variety of scenarios. There were the anticipated assortment of clinical emergencies including; mass casualties, a variety of gruesome wounds and trauma cases chillingly recreated by special effects cosmetics experts on all too realistic mannequins. Other ‘surprises’ included an uninvited drone circling overhead and even a venomous snake on one of the wards.
Sergeant Suzzi Vipond, an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) similar to a theatre nurse, spoke of the exercise and her role, “All the equipment we use in the field has to be able to withstand a lot of movement, loading and unloading. It also has to have a lot of battery life, everything we have to do has to be mobile so we can do patient transfers either on helicopters or by sea. I love being an ODP, it’s exciting, you get to see different mechanisms and injuries. It always keeps you on your toes.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Cox is a consultant physician who ordinarily works at the Military Wing of Frimley Park Hospital. “I think most NHS consultants would recognise the equipment we have, and they would be familiar with what we are working with. There are some differences, some of the equipment we have is somewhat more robust so it can survive in the field or slightly more portable, but it is essentially the same thing doing the same job. We take patients that are critically ill; resuscitate if needed, assess them, operate if required and move them on to the next facility so it keeps capability open for new patients to come through.
We have learned a lot from lessons past, particularly Afghanistan because of the high trauma burden, but also conducting operations at long distances for long periods of time we improved incrementally. Pretty much everything has improved as a consequence.”