Army hospitals getting copies of 'Baghdad ER' documentary
Stars and Stripes
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army Surgeon General is sending the new HBO documentary “Baghdad ER” to medical facilities, including regional hospitals in Europe and the Pacific, as a training tool for medical personnel preparing to deploy to combat zones, according to Army spokesmen.
The one-hour program, which was shot over a two-month period in 2005, is an unflinching look at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, or “CSH” (pronounced “cash”), in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“It’s a very candid view of emergency medical operations in a combat zone,” Cynthia Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Medical Command, told Stripes on Thursday.
Viewing the program will help medical workers “prepare for deployment and the kind of injuries they can expect in a combat emergency room.”
Last week, HBO sent 21 copies of the documentary to the Army for use in its medical facilities, according to Jessica Manzi, a spokeswoman for HBO.
Those copies have been distributed to U.S. Army hospitals and medical facilities, including Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, where officials are scheduling viewings for medical staff, Vaughan said.
Copies also are en route to Army medical facilities in Würzburg, Germany; Headquarters, Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg; Landstuhl Regional Medical Center; and the 18th Medical Command in Seoul, Vaughan said.
“They should arrive at the overseas facilities any day now,” she said.
Even as they plan to use “Baghdad ER” as a training tool, however, senior Army medical officials are concerned viewing the program might provoke flashbacks and other serious emotional reactions in some soldiers or family members.
On May 17, Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, commander, Tripler Army Medical Center and Pacific Regional Medical Command and chief of the Army Nurse Corps, sent an e-mail to Army Nurse Corps members encouraging their attendance at screenings of the documentary.
“War is hard and this [film] will demonstrate that,” the e-mail said.
Pollock said that she and the Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, are concerned that seeing the film “may cause flashbacks, nightmares and increased concerns across the nation.”
Army Medical Department “colleagues, our patients and their families may need additional emotional support after seeing it,” she wrote.
HBO will air “Baghdad ER” for its subscribers on May 21 at 8 p.m., Manzi said.
Overseas military subscribers to the American Forces Network will have to wait for a decision by the management of the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service before they will know if “Baghdad ER” will be carried over the Defense Department’s overseas television network.
“We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Larry Sichter, an AFRTS spokesman, said in a Thursday telephone interview.
“We’ll record it Sunday and then decide if it meets our ‘over-the-air network broadcasting standard’” before deciding whether to begin negotiating with HBO for broadcast rights, Sichter said.
That Federal Communications Commission broadcast standard is what governs networks such as CBS and NBC in determining program content, Sichter said.
The programming guidelines for the standard are considerably more “family friendly” than those used by cable networks.