Top class healthcare chain

A good healthcare chain is a necessity for Swedish troops operating abroad. A specially designed concept has been put into service for the Swedish UN force in Mali. It has everything from a trauma unit to strategic evacuation.

A pilot and registered medical personnel from Karolinska University Hospital cooperate with the Swedish UN personnel at the airport in Timbuktu. Photo: Jimmy Croona/Swedish Armed Forces
The Swedish forces cooperate with a helicopter unit from El Salvador for medical transport within the super camp at Timbuktu. Photo: Jimmy Croona/Swedish Armed Forces

"This is a very good design," says the platoon medical captain, Krister Karlsson, who normally works at the Armed Forces' Centre for Defence Medicine in Gothenburg.

The first step is TCCC, or "Tactical Combat Casualty Care" in the field, otherwise known as comrade support. There is a combat medical orderly in every group of the unit's reconnaissance squadron. Put simply, it is a group medical orderly who is also trained to give certain prescription medicines as anaesthetics.

"The next step is for registered medical personnel, doctors and nurses in the field, to start treatment of the patient. There is also a mobile trauma and operation unit in the field called Forward Resuscitation Capacity (FRC)," says Karlsson.

"We have all possible resources"

An RG 32 off-road vehicle has been converted into an ambulance. It is part of the Swedish unit's transport capacity. MI-8 transport helicopters are also used in the UN task. They are used to fly medical personnel out to help other UN units, as on 2 July this year when soldiers from Burkina Faso were attacked by Islamists about 50 kilometres from Timbuktu.

"We simply load the helicopter with registered medical personnel and advanced mobile equipment and fly as close to the location as possible."

Once the injured person arrives at Camp Nobel near Timbuktu, medical care is waiting at an advanced mini-version of a Swedish hospital.

"We have all possible resources, including an operating theatre, intensive care unit and x-ray. We also have a blood container where we can store large quantities of frozen blood for long time periods, which is a unique concept."

The medical unit also includes daily care similar to that in a Swedish health centre. The medical platoon is supported at times by a pharmacist and psychologist on site in the task area.

If the patient is judged to be so ill or injured that the medical staff at Camp Nobel can do no more, there is one last resort.

"We can call in strategic evacuation (STRATEVAC), in principle a flying intensive care transport with personnel and equipment from Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.

A flight was recently made with an injured soldier from Timbuktu.

"It took only 24 hours from the alarm to picking up the soldier in Mali, which is definitely very good," says Krister Karlsson.