U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 633rd Medical Group from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, partnered with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service to deliver a modular medical treatment center, Sept. 26, as part of a government-wide effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations.
Airmen from the 633rd Medical Group accompanied the Expeditionary Medical Support System, or EMEDS, to Africa. And while they will not be involved in treatment of patients exposed to the virus, they will be supporting the overall effort by setting up the facility and training international healthcare workers.
In early September, the Department of Defense approved the Department of State request for a 25-bed deployable hospital facility, equipment and personnel required to set up the facility. The Air Force's Expeditionary Medical Support System fulfilled that request, meaning Operation United Assistance -- the designation for Ebola Relief missions -- receives the largest version of the EMEDS facility. The facility can treat a population at risk of up to 6,500.
"Over the past week or so, 633rd MDG Airmen have worked in tandem with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service as part of a multi-agency effort," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Dun, Chief, Expeditionary Medical Operations Division Office of the Command Surgeon, HQ Air Combat Command. "From the scale of response, this is a national effort. Experts from across the country are working together to bring meaningful relief to those stricken by this terrible disease."
As part of the joint effort from multiple government agencies, Airmen will set the stage for further mission success by standing up the EMEDS and training public health professionals on the proper use of the extensive tools available to them.
"The most important thing is the Airmen setting up and training the [international health workers] on the equipment and how it works," said Brig. Gen. Sean Lee Murphy, ACC surgeon general. He noted that while the Airmen will not be doing patient care, they will still be using all of the force health protection as a precaution and will still be playing an important role in the humanitarian mission. This particular opportunity to help on the other side of the world is a bit unique.
"We are potentially setting a precedent because the EMEDS unit is typically set up for things like trauma care," said Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, the acting deputy surgeon general for the U.S. Department of Public Health Service.
"[Instead] we will be using it for an infectious pathogen and treatment of international health care workers." According to Giberson, the Air Force's EMEDS is one of the greatest assets to have in this situation.
"DoD Army in Africa, AFRICOM, will be supporting us with some of the logistics and things like that, but the Air Force has the piece of delivering the facility for us and the expertise of setting up the facility and training us on the facility," said Giberson. So, we need that piece of the puzzle to complete the successful mission."
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