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Airmen build hospital in Chile

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
Airmen from an Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support team along with members of the Chilean army are building a mobile hospital here March 10 through 12 to help augment medical services for nearly 110,000 Chileans in the region.

About 60 medical Airmen will work alongside local Chilean medics to provide support to meet the daily medical needs of the local community in this mobile facility.

The EMEDS team is equipped and staffed to provide surgical, primary care, pediatric, radiological, gynecological, laboratory and pharmaceutical services.

The local hospital in Angol, a city southeast of Conception, Chile, was deemed structurally unsound as a result of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27. With the nearest operation ward more than 40 miles away, and many other local hospitals overwhelmed with casualties following the earthquake, local Chilean officials requested assistance from U.S. forces to help with primary care capabilities.

"This EMEDS system is a very light, very durable, very fast-assembled medical field hospital," said Lt. Col. Christopher Morgan, the deputy commander of the EMEDS team supporting the Chilean earthquake relief effort. "It is also one of the quickest moved. You could move a whole hospital on about one or two C-17 (Globemaster IIIs), which allows Airmen to move in quickly, set up and provide care."

Prior to the creation of the EMEDS hospital, Colonel Morgan said, it would take three to four times the airlift to move an air transportable hospital. EMEDS provides a lot of the same capability with a lot smaller footprint.

An EMEDS team was requested because they could be here in a matter of days, said Chilean army Lt. Col. Guillermo Uslar, the coordinator of the Chilean health service in Angol.

"To replace the hospital torn down by the earthquake could take up to three years," he said. "This facility is the best way to solve the immediate problem."

While the local hospital in Angol is being rebuilt, this medical facility will provide much needed space to provide medical care for the local community. The hospital will include several tents for care, including an emergency room and an operating room. The Air Force expeditionary medical team will provide assistance in the hospital as long as support is requested by local officials.

"The Airmen we have deployed here with us are medical professionals," Colonel Morgan said. "They understand the urgency to get this (EMEDS) operational to provide assistance to the people of Chile. They are very proud of the care they will provide and we look forward to working hand and glove with our Chilean partners who are very well trained as well."

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.