CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
Once patients are medically evacuated from a forward operating base to receive more treatment on their injuries, they are brought to a facility like the United Kingdom Bastion Hospital, one of the largest medical facilities in Afghanistan.
Doctors, nurses and Corpsmen with Surgical Company B, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) help the joint-services medical staff provide medical care to patients at Bastion Hospital here.
"It's a British hospital. The British have the lead role in the hospital, and we're just merely a small American contingent in the hospital, but we take care of everybody," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason M. Foree, the senior enlisted leader for the American contingent of the Bastion Hospital.
There are three levels of medical care in theater, the first being immediate life-saving care on the battlefield for trauma patients. Level two consists of medical facilities on FOBs. Level three facilities are hospitals with more capabilities to provide a higher level of care.
Bastion Hospital is a level three facility that can treat more patients than a lower-level facility, and medical personnel here have the ability to conduct medical procedures that smaller medical facilities at FOBs can't, explained Foree, 39, from Pensacola, Fla. They treat everyone and have the ability to keep these patients here longer, and with full pharmacy, laboratory, X-ray capabilities and an intensive care unit with critical care nurses, they can provide patients with even better care.
"Our main goal is to get people stabilized from the battlefield and get them [medically evacuated] to higher hospital care where they can get more definitive care," Foree said.
With 49 Navy individual augmentees, 32 Army personnel with the 31st Combat Support Hospital, four Air Force personnel, one blood bank, two trauma nurse coordinators, three corpsmen with Surgical Co. B, nine mortuary affairs specialists with Personnel Retrieval and Processing Detachment, 1st MLG (FWD), and almost 200 British armed forces medical staff working together at the hospital, they're more available to the patients' needs.
"It's a very diverse group," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Beatriz M. Salinas, surgical technician with Surgical Co. B, 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD). "It's a very different atmosphere; there are things that we're not used to, like the instrumentation is different so we have to learn the new names for everything to be able to do our job successfully."
The United States and the U.K.'s partnership plays an important role in the success if this hospital, Foree explained. "It's definitely a joint effort," he added. "It's not just the U.S. and U.K. relationship, but we have every [military] service represented here in the hospital working together on multi-national, multi-service patients."
They work together on most cases, learning from each other, helping one another inside and outside of the operating room, Foree explained.
"We're mainly dealing with severe trauma," Foree said. "We have a full capacity emergency room. We take care of everything from cuts, bruises and scrapes to traumatic amputations, gunshot wounds and IED blast injuries. You name it, we've seen it out here. Most of the injuries we see out here in a month is more than most people will see in years of performing emergency medicine or critical care medicine."
When a trauma patient enters the hospital, a team of medical staff at the operating department is standing by to clear the patient's airway, explained Salinas, 24, from Hialeah, Fla. In the meantime, corpsmen with Surgical Co. B set up the operating room for surgery.
Being one of the biggest medical facilities in theater, patients come in and out every day, keeping the staff quite busy, said Lt. Cmdr. Gregg W. Gellman, director for administration and senior American administrator at Bastion Hospital.
"This is a trauma hospital in the middle of nowhere doing some of the most ground breaking, life-saving surgery that's being done in the world," said Gellman, 40, from North Woodmere, N.Y. "We're providing a level of care in theater here that is better than most hospitals back in the States or back in the U.K. in terms of just sheer trauma. And we're providing that service to anyone that comes through our door."
The "devil docs" feel a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing they are helping save lives on a daily basis.
"Sometimes it's a bit tiring because you work long hours and see a lot of patients," said Salinas. "But at the end of the day when you go home, you feel like you've done something important by taking care of somebody, and that's always good to know."