Healthcare workers put day jobs on hold to treat 2,700 patients in Afghanistan
MEDICS who put their day jobs in South Yorkshire on hold to spend three months treating casualties in the bloody Afghanistan conflict were given a hero’s welcome when they gathered for their medals presentation.
Members of the Territorial Army’s 212 Field Hospital ran the British military hospital at Camp Bastion, Helmand, between January and April this year, treating up to 30 casualties a day.
They included British and international troops, ordinary Afghan people and even Taliban – many with horrific wounds.
In one month alone, 2,300 pints of blood were used on casualties, some of whom needed as much as 100 pints each.
The total of patients treated – 2,700 – was almost double the number when members of the regiment, most of whom are NHS surgeons, nurses and doctors at hospitals such as the Royal Hallamshire, Northern General and Doncaster Royal Infirmary, were last sent to run the hospital in 2007.
It was the busiest three months ever experienced at the hospital outside the summer fighting season, since the start of the British deployment to Helmand in 2006.
Medics who served were presented with their medals by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg during a ceremony at the regiment’s headquarters, Endcliffe Hall, in Sheffield.
The Hallam MP said he had been ‘honoured’ to perform the duty, adding: “I have visited the hospital at Camp Bastion twice and been struck by the most extraordinary example of the day-to-day heroism and dedication of these volunteer medics, who are performing miracles keeping people alive who suffered the most severe injuries.”
The presentation was attended by civic dignitaries and military top brass as well as the medics’ families.
Colonel Mark Pemberton, commanding officer of 212 Field Hospital, who was among those deployed, said: “The tour of duty was the second or third for some of our regiment.
“Everyone has been deeply moved by their experiences – I was deeply affected by the severity of injuries we saw. There were only three days when we did not receive very serious casualties.”
Col Pemberton said there was one day when there were 36 cases, 19 requiring surgery. “Operations were ongoing from 9am until 3am the next morning and we had four operating tables in use until 11pm,” he said.
When there was respite, it was short-lived. “One night, the last operation finished at 11pm but at 7am the next morning we had a triple amputee,” Col Pemberton recalled.
As well as troops, large numbers of patients were Afghan children caught up in the conflict.
Col Pemberton said: “Every life was important to us and that was the way we approached our work. We treated the insurgents and put every effort into helping patients who appeared to be lost causes.
“There was a 10-year-old girl who had horrendous electrical burns but we operated on her and she was a patient in intensive care for 10 to 12 days before we could do no more for her.”
Their work was complicated due to medical problems prevalent in areas of great poverty.
Col Pemberton recalled how they were able to treat one woman for shrapnel wounds but she had terminal tuberculosis.
■ 212 Field Hospital is recruiting new members. To join, contact Capt Mike Rutkowski on 01904 668228, 07771 958311, or by emailing 212hosp-ROSO@mod.uk.