Air Force Medical Services Providing Critical Support in Haiti

040307-F-2828D-129The Air Force Medical Service is engaged in support of the mission in Haiti and has been since the first 24 hours of operation. Col Mark Mavity, Chief of Medical Readiness for the Air Force Surgeon General, says that the currently, the Air Force Medical Service has between 40 and 50 personnel on the ground in supporting a large inter-service and inter-agency operation. Over the last 10 years, the AFMS has developed a fast, lean deployment strategy when it comes to disasters and other field medical situations. They have done this using their EMEDS systems.

The EMEDS system can be delivered to a site in 2 C-17 aircraft and can be deployed in a very short time. Currently, the Air Force has deployed a number of medical resources including a number of EMEDS teams and as of Sunday, has also deployed an EMEDS-plus-10, which has a 10 holding bed capacity. The concept of the EMEDS is to flow patients through the system quickly for stabilization for evacuation. Within the week, they will upgrade that to an EMEDS-25 system in order to accommodate even more patients.

The Col also indicated that Air Force medical staff will be assisting on board the USS Comfort. I asked the Col if they would be sending any of their personnel to assist directly in any of the native Haitian hospitals, he said:

“At this point in time, we don’t have any plans to do that. That doesn’t mean that we will not be partnering with those folks, based upon wherever we decide to place those assets. And we could certainly be working very closely, hand-in-hand, and possibly, wherever we set up operations, in bringing some of the Haitian medical folks into our facility and working with them. Again, taking lessons learned from Indonesia, what you’re suggesting is exactly what we wound up doing in Indonesia. We set up that operation right next to an established hospital that was still functioning.”

I asked the Col where patients were being evacuated to, he said:

“In terms of where the patients are moving to, that has covered a number of locations. A couple of the patients were originally moved out to Guantánamo. There have been some patients that have moved back to Miami. The request from the government of Haiti was to actually try and build a bridge to Miami. That is being looked at as a capability and a destination right now. Some of that, of course, will certainly depend upon where our civilian medical systems will be able to accommodate the receipt of an influx of patients, if a large number of patients do begin to move.”

Photo provided by DefenseMilitary.milUS Air Force (USAF) Technical Sergeant (TSGT) Dewaine Olson (left foreground), Medic, 43rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES), Pope Air Force Base (AFB), North Carolina (NC), and other 43rd AES personnel set-up their living area and work center at the Port-au-Prince International Airport (IAP), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (HTI), while participating in support of a multi-national peacekeeping operation.

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