Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – In under just one hour, a mobile field hospital that contained all the necessary medial equipment and facilities, including operating theatres, a pharmacy, a test lab, as well as an anaesthesiology lab and a defibrillator, was set up at the International Congress of Military Medicine in Jeddah earlier this week. Hospitals such as this can be found operating in war-zones or scenes of natural disaster, providing quick medical relief to those in need; these field hospitals are able to quickly treat hundreds of casualties quickly and efficiently.
Saudi Arabian field hospitals have provided medical aid in more than 9 countries, whiles these field hospitals have also helped in providing medical treatment to an estimated 74,330 Saudi citizens who live in remote regions of the country. In addition to this, these mobile field hospitals also provided significant medical relief to the Saudi citizens who were displaced by the Saudi – Huthi war earlier this year.
Asharq Al-Awsat toured a mobile field hospital on show at the 2nd International Congress of Pan-Arab Regional Group of Military Medicine [ICMM] that was held in Jeddah earlier this week and which more than 70 countries attended. Field hospitals such as these can be set up and arranged according to the nature of the location they are being set up in, and the requirements that it needs to meet. These field hospitals consist of 11 inter-connected vehicles, with each vehicle or truck representing a medical department that is equipped with all the necessary medical equipment including beds, lab apparatus, intensive care units, and emergency units.
In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, Saudi Armed Forces Director of Field Medicine Lieutenant Colonel Mishal al-Otaibi revealed that mobile field hospitals are used in two cases; during wars or as part of humanitarian operations for natural disasters. He said that hospitals such as these had already been used practically in the field in many countries that have suffered natural disasters, to the point that Saudi Arabia is one of the leading countries to provide medical aid for humanitarian disasters.
Lieutenant Colonel Mishal al-Otaibi also told Asharq Al-Awsat that inter-connecting corridors can be set up between the trucks to link the different medical departments, and each truck represents a medical department with all the equipment and facilities that are required by any hospital. These field hospitals are able to deal with life-threatening injuries and supply patients with the necessary medication and medical attention, and indeed surgery, if required.
Lieutenant Colonel Al-Otaibi said that these hospitals have contributed in 16 medical campaigns across Saudi Arabia, as part of the Prince Sultan National Campaign for Health Education. This sees mobile field hospitals visiting regions that lack major hospitals, providing patients with medicine and medical attention, with those patients requiring additional medical attention being quickly transferred to a Saudi Arabian major hospital.
Lieutenant Colonel Al-Otaibi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “these [field] hospitals have a reputation for excellence and are known for their contribution to [humanitarian] relief operations across the world, from natural disasters to wars. These hospitals also contribute to treating thousands of patients in countries like Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Sudan.”
The interior layout of field hospitals such as the one toured by Asharq Al-Awsat does not differ significantly from ordinary hospitals, even with regards to the colour of the walls and the equipment being used. Asharq Al-Awsat noticed that once you have entered a field hospital, it is easy to forget that you are not in a real hospital.
In his speech to the ICMM, Director General of Saudi Arabian Armed Forces Medical Services Directorate Major General Dr. Ketab Bin Eid Al-Otaibi announced that mobile field hospitals had treated 74,330 Saudi citizens in remote regions and villages. In addition to this, he said that field hospitals had contributed to field studies and reports in coordination with the Saudi Ministry of Health, to monitor the spread of disease and medical requirements of all regions of Saudi Arabia.
Major General al-Otaibi also revealed that mobile field hospitals had encountered major difficulties during its mission to provide medical relief to the people displaced by the Saudi – Huthi conflict along the Saudi Arabian border with Yemen due to the mountainous terrain of the region. However he said that in spite of these challenges, the field hospitals had been able to carry out their duties “in coordination with all hospitals in all regions of the south.”
He also added that Saudi Arabia is preparing a number of courses to train cadres from the member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] in this field. He said that the hospital on view was the first of its kind of mobile hospitals, and that hospitals such as this had been transferred to Pakistan Chakala Air Force base to take part in the massive relief operation in Pakistan.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz had decreed that Saudi Arabia would aid in the Pakistani humanitarian relief operation by sending two mobile field hospitals to the country to provide medical services and humanitarian aid to victims of the devastating floods that hit the country. Each hospital had a capacity of 200 beds and is staffed by 115 medical personnel.