Airmen, Chileans treat patients at new expeditionary hospital
By By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young, Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
/ Published March 15, 2010
ANGOL, Chile -- Just five days after their arrival in Chile, Airmen from an Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support team along with Chilean medics are treating patients at the newly built mobile hospital here March 15.
This morning, Chilean surgeons and anesthesiologists worked side-by-side with their Air Force counterparts to complete their first surgery, an ankle fracture from the earthquake.
The Chilean and American medical team are equipped and staffed to provide surgical, primary care, pediatric, radiological, gynecological, laboratory and pharmaceutical services to the nearly 110,000 Chileans in the region. The hospital has been fully operational since March 13.
"Three days ago, this was a barren polo field on a Chilean army cavalry post; now it is a full mission capable Air Force expeditionary hospital," said Col. David Garrison, the commander of the EMEDS team supporting the Chilean earthquake relief effort. "Words cannot describe how proud I am of the 85 medics, public affairs, contracting, civil engineer and security forces Airmen supporting the Angol EMEDS; their energy is absolutely amazing."
After an 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27, Angol's 190-bed, regional hospital was deemed structurally unsound. Prior to the expeditionary hospital's completion, local Chilean medics treated members of the local community in a small clinic in Angol, or referred them to nearby hospitals--some nearly 40 miles away.
The clinic (in Angol) receives about 225 patient visits a day, said Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, the director of the regional hospital in Angol affected by the earthquake. With this new hospital built, patients can be referred to this hospital, which will allow doctors at the clinic in Angol to handle more outpatient care.
"We feel very at peace with the extra capabilities, (now we can) handle the extra load for the Angol population," Doctor Rodriguez said.
The EMEDS team along with members of the Chilean army built the hospital in three and half days. The original EMEDS +10 hospital plan included one operating room, seven beds and three critical-care beds. After assessing the medical needs of the local community, the EMEDS team doubled the number of operating wards and quadrupled the number of patient wards.
More than 60 Air Force medics work side-by-side with 50 Chilean medical professionals to provide care for patients and show the Chileans the capabilities of this EMEDS facility.
"I've been able to learn a lot working with EMEDS Airmen, including how to set up an EMEDS hospital and how to use different equipment in this hospital," said Chilean army Second Corporal Jonathan Cuevas, a paramedic working in the mobile hospital. "The Americans here have helped out a lot we feel very grateful that they all are helping our country and our people."
Building and working in this hospital is a fulfilling experience, said Senior Airman Joseph Lockman, an aerospace medical technician who works in the emergency room at the mobile hospital.
"To know that I'm actually helping people out and setting up a hospital that they do not have is a real joy and is exciting for me," Airman Lockman said.
U.S. military relief activities in Chile are part of the ongoing U.S. relief efforts led by U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance officials.