NATO Chiefs of Military Medical Services convene its 58th plenary session
From 15 to 17th November 2022, NATO’s Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services (COMEDS) convened its 58th plenary, with sessions dedicated to the ongoing medical support to Ukraine, the pan-Alliance medical capability risks, tailored responses to CBRN threats and updates from the Strategic Commands. The Committee also awarded their Dominique Jean Larrey Award.
Opening the official plenary session, Chair of the Committee, Major General Hodgetts, the United Kingdom’s Surgeon General, laid-out the expectations for the meeting and the importance of the discussions in shaping advice to the NATO Military Committee. “As the principal source for medical advice at NATO, COMEDS has a responsibility to ensure our leadership have the required information to make informed decisions, helping them shape our medical policies, our contingency plans and as required, our medical emergency responses”, underlined the COMEDS Chair.
Major General Tetiana Ostashchenko, Commander of the Medical Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, then took the floor to provide an update on the ongoing situation in her country, especially in relation to the deployed medical response and subsequent medical requirements. In regards to NATO’ support to Ukraine, Major General Hodgetts reiterated that “it would remain unwavering. Medical support to Ukraine has been a high priority for the Alliance since the start of the war. Numerous NATO Allies have been providing direct support with medical supplies, CBRN equipment and specialised medical training, including paramedical and first response. There is also heightened awareness for civil-military cooperation in the medical domain”.
Participants also received briefings from NATO’s International Military Staff and NATO’s two Strategic Commands, Allied Command Transformation and Allied Command Operations, on their respective areas of medical responsibility.
Participants then turned their attention to their input to ongoing strategic work, including the next 4-year NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP). “I am grateful to both the IMS and IS Medical Advisors for their contributions, ensuring that medical considerations have been properly captured and represented to what is likely an unprecedented degree. Thorough planning will result in quickly deployable plans and efficient responses”, noted Major General Hodgetts.
In a dedicated CBRN session, Allied and Partner General Surgeons explored the challenges and opportunities presented in this area, especially in regards to training, biological detection systems, self-administered medical countermeasures and the potential exploitation of emerging and disruptive technologies. “The ongoing war in Ukraine and Russia’s nuclear threats emphasised the importance of CBRN planning, preparedness and responses. CBRN exercises like CLEAN CARE 22 and its lessons learned are also contributing to these efforts”, added the COMEDS Chair.
The plenary concluded with briefings from Partner Nations and organisations, including the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, NATO’s Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine and the Multi-National Medical Coordination Centre/European Medical Command. “The practice of medicine has never been centred on an individual but has always been a team effort. I am delighted that this sense of community is echoed in this Committee, with our Allies and Partners but also sister organisations. I truly believe that by working together we can, not only learn from each other, but also be better prepared to counter all threats”, Major General Hodgetts emphasised.
This year’s COMEDS Dominique-Jean Larrey Award was bestowed on the COMEDS Health Information Systems & Technology (HIST) Working Group. “The civilian and military experts in this working group have worked collectively to develop innovative solutions, especially to improve information exchange, enhance decision-making and foster interoperability. They also actively collaborate with other NATO partners to strengthen the Alliance’s preparedness for the contemporary and future challenges. Their collective expertise is highly sought after by the medical community to enhance exercises, workshops and standardization activities”, emphasised Major General Hodgetts.
The Dominique-Jean LARRY award is the highest award conferred by COMEDS and it is presented in recognition of exceptional performance with regard to the development of multi-nationality and/or interoperability; or to improvements in the provision of health care in NATO missions within the areas of military medical support or military healthcare development.