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A four-star field hospital

By Cpl. Sbastien Pisani
First published in
SFOR Informer#108, March 7, 2001

Sipovo - The creaking double door opens. A head taller than his colleagues, Dutch commander Van der Molen goes out of the conference room and walks back up the main corridor of the Sipovo hospital. “Meetings are always a bit too long, but it is essential to take regularly stock of the situation. We are also discussing evolutions we would like to provide for the running of the hospital,” he said with a smile. He looks quickly at several soldiers of the UK Combat Service Support Battalion (CSS Bn), who are waiting for their consultations. “Activity is quiet at the moment, only two beds are occupied. But we are in a position to respond quickly to any signalled urgency.”
Located in an old textile factory, which before the war manufactured clothing for export all over Europe, the integrated medical unit takes advantage of the presence in Sipovo camp of the Combat Service Support Battalion and the Immediate Response Team (IRT). The CSS medical Coy puts its ten ambulances at free disposal and IRT provides its Cougar helicopter, which is very useful, seeing that 90% of the wounded and sick persons are transported by air. A Canadian Griffon and its crew supply additional help for winch-operations.
The hospital has a ten beds capacity, which can be increased by twenty additional if needed. Among the 46 employees of that multinational medical unit, there are two surgeons, two anaesthetists, one emergency doctor, one physician, nine nurses and some specialists operating in the radiology and orthopaedic fields. “Our mission is to provide primary and emergency medical care to SFOR staff broadly comparable with peacetime standards,” said Capt. Ducker from the Royal Air Force. A very important point for this British officer more accustomed to the Spartan comfort of field hospitals. With its two fully equipped theatres, its resuscitation section and its imaging department, the Sipovo hospital need not to be ashamed facing Western civilian medical means. “We cover all the multinational division South-West (MND-SO). We have to face up to any type of situation,” said Maj. Van der Molen.
The structure is capable of receiving 2 P1 (seriously wounded casualties requiring immediate resuscitative surgery), 6 P2 (casualties who are seriously wounded but there is no immediate danger to life) and 17 P3 (casualties who have light wounds and whose treatment may be safely delayed) over a 24 hours period without becoming overwhelmed. Patients requiring specialist care such as neurosurgery and ophthalmology are transferred to the German field hospital of Rajlovac, near Sarajevo. Digital medical imaging can be sent to Utrecht (Netherlands) by satellite to be analysed by specialists.
“ We also receive civilians because of the poor medical infrastructure in BiH. Each physician of the Opstina (municipality) is allowed to send us three patients per day, but we don't want to be a substitute for the local medical system,” said Maj. Van der Molen.
Consultations of the Combat Service Support Battalion soldiers are completed. The British, Canadian, Dutch and Czech staff meet to exchange news. “This is a luck to work in an international environment because of professional and cultural aspects,” said Maj. Van der Molen, before joining his colleagues. The double door closes on him without a creak.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK, Netherland