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Ground ambulance crewmembers from the National Guard’s 128th Medical Company out of Ashland, Ala., load an Iraqi patient into the back of their Humvee outside of the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. The patient was transported to an Iraqi medical facility.

Ground ambulance crewmembers from the National Guard’s 128th Medical Company out of Ashland, Ala., load an Iraqi patient into the back of their Humvee outside of the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. The patient was transported to an Iraqi medical facility. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

BAGHDAD — Staff members at the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad aren’t feeling the love.

Because a large majority of their hospitalized patients are Iraqi, goodbyes are a bittersweet part of daily life for the staff and patients at the facility. If patients are leaving, it means they are stable enough to travel. But it’s also the last time the hospital crew will see or hear of the patients they worked so hard to save.

“They don’t have a concept of mail,” said Maj. Christine Edwards, who doubles as the hospital’s nutritionist and public affairs officer. “I’ve wanted to keep in touch with some of the families, to see how the patients are doing, but they don’t have a mail system.”

For fighting forces, the CSH serves as a hospital where U.S. and coalition troops are stabilized before being flown out of Iraq to other facilities. All U.S. personnel who need more treatment are taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

So most of those left behind in the long-term care of CSH personnel in the beige building within the International Zone, sometimes called Green Zone, are Iraqis wounded in vehicle collisions, bombings, shootings and insurgent attacks, Edwards said.

A ground ambulance crew operated by the National Guard’s 128th Medical Company out of Ashland, Ala., transports the Iraqi patients, once they’re healed or stabilized, to the care of Iraqi medical experts, said Sgt. 1st Class Ben Weathers.

The 86th CSH has three operating rooms with two beds each, allowing surgeons to perform several surgeries simultaneously in the event of a mass-casualty incident, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Bedick, an operating room nurse.

“The Iraqis, well, they’re not wearing body armor. We get a lot of abdominal injuries,” Bedick said.

The 86th took over from the 31st CSH on Dec. 26. The medical facility is the Ibn Sina Hospital, built by private funds pooled by four doctors in 1962. Construction took two years and the hospital opened in 1964. Saddam Hussein took it over in 1974 and allowed only family and close friends to be treated there, Edwards said.

The 74-bed hospital, including 24 intensive care beds, is a Level III facility. A Level I facility is a basic field first-aid station; Level II can stabilize emergency cases and perform rudimentary life-saving surgeries; Level III facilities provide long-term care and are quipped with operating rooms, CAT scan machines, and X-rays. Level IV and V facilities are like Landstuhl’s hospital and those found in the United States, where long-term treatment is provided.


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