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U.S. Airmen Help Open Hospital in Afghanistan

By Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HERO, Afghanistan, Dec. 19, 2007 – Airmen in a medical mentoring team here have been working hard to ensure the successful opening of an Afghan National Army hospital for the past several months.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Weaver, a medic deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., instructs Afghan National Army medical personnel on spinal immobilization techniques at the newly opened Kandahar ANA regional hospital in Afghanistan. The medical mentoring team arrived to find the construction 500 days behind schedule and immediately took on the task of supplying the hospital and getting it opened before continuing the mission of mentoring Afghan National Army medical personnel. Photo by Col. (Dr.) Thomas Seay, USAF
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The team’s original mission was to mentor their Afghan counterparts and teach them medical skills to treat Afghan military and police members, said Air Force Col. Mike Skidmore, the team’s senior mentor officer and administrator.

All that changed when the team arrived several months ago, he said. The hospital was 500 days behind schedule, and instead of finding equipment and eager ANA medical personnel, the team found an empty, incomplete facility.

“We had to move from a mentoring mission to a new mindset of equipping the hospital, opening it and then mentoring,” said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Thomas Seay, the senior medical mentor and chief radiologist.

Most of the state-of-the-art equipment, to include a digital X-ray and digital ultrasound machines, were purchased by the United States, with some items – such as wheelchairs -- donated by a nonprofit organization based in Canada, he said.

The hospital is one of the most advanced of its kind in the southern region of Afghanistan.

“Phase one of the construction consisted of a $5.6 million, 50-bed main hospital,” Skidmore said. “It will serve the entire ANA 205th Corps, including four combat brigades, their associated garrison clinics and more than 27,000 ANA soldiers, Afghan National Police and their families. There are two isolation rooms, one trauma room, two operating rooms, and an intensive care ward that can accommodate up to six patients.”

One of the most impressive elements of the project is the water processing plant, he added. It uses a multi-stage process to clean and sterilize water to the standard necessary for hospital conditions and also is being used as a model for future water plants throughout the country.

Contractors also recently broke ground on phase two, a $2.6 million hospital expansion that will house an additional 50 patients, Skidmore said.

With the hospital ribbon-cutting held Dec. 15, the mentoring team now is looking forward to starting the job it came to do.

The team is made up of a total of 18 airmen: three doctors, three nurses, three administrators, a radiologist, a pharmacist, a medic, two lab technicians, a pharmacy technician, a radiology technician, a biomedical equipment technician and a logistician. Team members will work with their Afghan counterparts to create a baseline of skills, Seay said. There also will be a lot of focus on sterilization and sustainment of equipment and resources, he added.

Together, the team hopes its efforts can help the Afghan National Army to rebuild the country and be effective at maintaining peace and security.

“This is arguably the best ANA hospital in the entire country, given the building, the equipment and the water treatment plant, but the most impressive part of this hospital is its staff,” Skidmore said. “They are incredibly excited and enthusiastic to learn new clinical and managerial techniques in health care.”

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco is assigned to 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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Combined Joint Task Force 82
NATO International Security Assistance Force


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