New Level III hospital opens in Anbar area
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — U.S. military officials opened a new Level III trauma hospital here Monday, saying it will greatly improve the survival rate for U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces wounded in the fighting in Anbar province.
“Basically, if you get here and you’re alive, you’ll leave alive,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Ronald Silverman, commander of the 3rd Task Force Medical Command. “If you get here, we’ll save you.”
Roughly 40 percent of U.S. casualties come from Anbar Province in western Iraq and, until Monday, there had been no Level III facility — the highest in a combat zone — to treat them, said Silverman, who oversees the seven military medical facilities in Iraq.
Establishing the hospital in Anbar means wounded troops don’t have to be sent to Level III facilities in Baghdad or Balad, diminishing the transport time troops need in order to survive the war here, said Col. Bryan Kelly, commander of Al Asad’s Task Force 399th Combat Support Hospital.
Level III centers offer critical surgical and sustainment services, well above the “resuscitative services” provided at the lower-level treatment facilities.
From Al Asad, patients needing additional or long-term treatment are flown to Germany or to the United States.
The $6.2 million, pre-fabricated modular hospital has four operating rooms that can be run simultaneously if necessary. The 32-bed hospital consists of 12 intensive-care unit beds, and 20 intermediate-care unit beds.
The staff of 23 physicians, 50 nurses and 70 medical technicians also can provide services in emergency medicine, trauma surgery, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, vascular surgery, hand surgery, oral/maxofacial surgery, critical nursing care, family practice, internal medicine, radiology, pulmonary medicine and nutrition. The facility also has a women’s clinic.
It will provide care for U.S., coalition and Iraqi army and police forces, and treat civilians wounded as a result of combat operations, Kelly said. “We’re not a host-nation hospital,” he added.
While the ICU facilities might lack some of the top-of-the-line technology found stateside in civilian hospitals, they are adequately equipped to serve critically ill or wounded troops in a combat environment, said Army 2nd Lt. Melinda Nekervis, an ICU and flight nurse. “It has what we need, and if not, we can be very creative,” she said.
The extremely fine, powder-like dust that is Iraqi sand presents a challenge in trying to keep the operating rooms as clean and sterile as possible, said Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Bunnell, the operating room’s noncommissioned officer in charge.
The area is mopped at least five times during each of the eight-hour shifts to keep it clean, he said. “It’s a constant battle.”