GAKO, Rwanda – Nearly 200 participants from 15 nations gathered for Shared Accord 2018. At the same time, a team of medical professionals packed their bags and deployed to Gako, Rwanda Aug. 12-29, 2018.
The U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) medical team, alongside the Royal Netherlands Army and Rwanda Defence Force medical teams, is responsible not only for patient care during the exercise, but also for coordinating with the local hospital in the event of an emergency, coordinating route and evacuation procedures in case of a mass casualties, and for basic everyday care of exercise participants.
“A lot of pre-planning took place with our host nation and our Royal Netherlands Army counterparts,” said Army Maj. Christopher R. Smith, the USARAF senior physician assistant. “As soon as we hit the ground, we coordinated with the Rwanda Defence Force doctor and the Dutch nurses to confirm capabilities and capacity of the local hospital in the event of a severe injury or a mass casualty situation.”
The medical staff at Shared Accord 2018 has all previously worked in a joint deployed environment and has treated patients from various backgrounds.
“You can learn a lot from your counterparts when working in a joint environment,” said Sgt. 1st. Class Jaunita Pranger, a Royal Netherlands Army nurse. “We had a patient come in with heart failure and worked together to figure out the diagnosis and best treatment options together. The Rwandan doctor had the numbers and the contacts to the hospital, the physician assistant gave the diagnosis, and I put the IVs in. By working together we were able to give the best medical care possible in this environment.”
The safety of the soldiers is a top priority during Shared Accord 2018; even so, accidents happen. Working together as a team to treat soldiers from various backgrounds is imperative for success.
“Some of the challenges that come along with caring for patients from other countries is that you do not always have access to their medical records,” said Rwanda Defence Force Capt. Jean Bosco, a general practitioner. “We are treating patients without knowing their medical history or current medications. We have to prepare accordingly even if we do not have access to this information.”
Whether going for sick call or needing treatment for an injury during training, all soldiers participating in SA18 can expect a first-rate level of care and attention from the medical clinic, Smith said.
“All nations can walk in at any time and request care,” he said. “We try to incorporate each other into the care that is provided by discussing the best course of actions and executing accordingly. This also fosters a good working relationship aligning with interoperability at all levels during the exercise. By doing this, we demonstrate that we are partners throughout this entire operation.”