An innovative approach to medical care at Exercise Maple Flag 50

News Article / June 23, 2017

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By Second Lieutenant Camille Dolphin

As with air and ground crews, 22 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (22 CFHSC) is using Exercise Maple Flag 50 at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, to achieve training objectives. Specifically, the exercise is preparing the medical team to operate in a joint and combined environment.

Medical training is new to Maple Flag and, as with most innovations, it began with a challenge. Months before any aircraft arrived, the team at 22 CFHSC realized they would potentially be inundated with dozens more patients than could be easily accommodated at their full-time clinic. The team developed a plan to ensure medical operations would run smoothly for the duration of Maple Flag.

They decided they could ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by setting up a medical field unit. This would enable them to respond to the greater demand during the exercise and use the exercise as training for an actual deployment.

22 CFHSC set up the medical field unit in the form of two medical special equipment vehicles (SEV) located side by side.  The medical SEVs are located centrally on the base, near the United States Marine Corps living quarters and the entrance to the general restricted area. It is also conveniently close to the permanent Health Services Centre building.

The medical SEVs are expandable “sea-can” shipping containers that are tactically efficient and easily deployable. The structures are sturdy enough to function in the toughest environments and climates. Because they can be transported anywhere in the world via air, rail, road or sea, they are a great way to bring medical resources into action.

Captain Valerie MacEachern, the support services manager for 22 CFHSC, explained that the medical units are made for quick deployment. They hold all the necessary medical equipment, and they are ready to function within 30 minutes.

Each medical SEV is staffed by a flight surgeon and a medical technician, who can provide primary care, respond to emergencies, perform screening medicals and conduct daily ‘sick parades’. The SEVs are air-conditioned and heated, so if the temperature rises or drops they can still accommodate patients comfortably. Each SEV can accommodate one patient at a time.

 “The SEV helps negate any impact on the operations of the clinic at 22 Health Services Centre,” said Captain Sheri Muggaberg, the acting wing surgeon. “That was part of the benefit of having the SEV set up. We tasked the flight surgeon to staff the SEV, so it takes care of a good portion of the patients. The impact [of the exercise] on our clinic has been very low.”

Apart from their functionality, the units are a great opportunity to practice working alongside other allied nations. This simulates a real-world international deployment where Canada  is generally part of an international coalition. The United States Marine Corps manned one of the medical SEVs with two flight surgeon-qualified physicians and medical technicians for the first portion of Maple Flag. As well, the SEVs can treat any Canadian or international military participant of Maple Flag. This is part of an agreement with participating nations to help with their medical needs and liaise with their health care providers to coordinate care.

Exercise Maple Flag is an opportunity for 4 Wing Cold Lake units to prepare for real operations. For 22 CFHCS, it is a way to build relationships with our Allies and to be prepared to perform in the field.

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