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British Army medical treatment facility opens in Turkey

British Army medics have treated 86 patients in the first 24 hours of opening a medical treatment facility set up to support earthquake relief efforts in Turkey.

British Army medics have treated 86 patients in Turkey in the first 24 hours of opening a medical treatment facility set up to support earthquake relief efforts in Turkey.

16 Medical Regiment, bolstered by personnel from the RAF’s Tactical Medical Wing, deployed at short notice to set up the medical treatment facility in Turkoglu, close to the earthquake’s epicentre.

Since opening on the morning of Wednesday 15th February, the medics have treated men, women, and children with everything from broken bones to mental health issues.

There is a can-do attitude from all involved Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wyldbore

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wyldbore, 16 Medical Regiment’s clinical director, said: “We’ve seen the full range of what you’d expect at a GP or minor injuries centre. We’ve treated fractures and infected wounds - some of which happened in the earthquake, and some are just what happens when people are living outdoors for a prolonged period - as well as everyday gastro-intestinal problems, women’s health, and sick children.

“There is a university hospital 30 minutes away to refer complex cases to, but we are doing whatever we can to take pressure away from the local healthcare system. As an example, we had a man report with an abscess – we did a minor surgical procedure to lance it under anaesthetic, and two hours later he was on his way.”

The set-up on the ground sees Turkish and British emergency medical teams (EMT) working together to provide an emergency department, paediatrics, women’s health, minor injuries, and x-ray services – known as Role 1. Role 2 surgical and ward facilities are provided at the military facility across the road. The joint centre is at the site of a community hospital that is unable to operate due to earthquake damage.

All patients arrive at a Turkish EMT tent to be registered on the Turkish healthcare system, assessed, and then sent to where can provide the most suitable treatment. 

Lt Col Wyldbore, who works as a consultant anaesthetist at Royal London Hospital to maintain his skills and qualifications, said: “Just 24 hours in, we are working together seamlessly. Whether Turkish civilian or British military or civilian medics, we’re side-by-side in each other’s facilities. We have military GPs, medical technicians and a radiographer working in the Role 1, with Turkish interpreters in the Role 2 and doctors bringing referrals across to us to treat.

“There is a can-do attitude from all involved, and we are providing a fully functioning health service for this region in place of the damaged hospital.”

Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment’s core role is to provide medical support to 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army's global response force, and it is trained and equipped to deploy at short notice by parachute, helicopter or air landing.

The UK’s response to the earthquake is led by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, with the military contribution commanded by Joint Force Headquarters. A specialist team held at high readiness to provide expertise in operational delivery, logistics and communications arrived in Turkey three days after the earthquake to work with the British Embassy in Ankara.

Humanitarian aid, including tents and thousands of thermal blankets, has been delivered by the RAF. A Critical Care Air Support Team able to move critically ill patients by air has deployed in a C130 Hercules.