HERAT, Afghanistan -- Cries for help, coupled with screams of agony and pain could be heard as stretchers were unloaded from blaring ambulances May 11 during a morning mass casualty exercise at Camp Zafar's Herat Regional Medical Center.

This was the first time the Afghanistan National Army's 207th Corps has conducted a mass casualty exercise of this size and complexity.

The exercise, two weeks in the planning, was entirely organized and carried out by the 207th Corps hospital leadership and administration. Twenty doctors, 40 nurses, and more than 140 other medical staff participated in the exercise.

Thirteen combat life saving medics from the ANA's 207th Corps volunteered to play the role of injured civilians and victims of a simulated enemy attack.

Special effects makeup was applied to the role player's extremities, adding a touch of realism to head traumas, broken bones, and gunshot wounds.

The volunteer patients were met by a frenzy of triage teams, responsible for assigning initial injury severity classifications and urgent medical care prior to being transferred to operating rooms for immediate surgery or to intensive care units for advanced long- term treatment.

The goal of the exercise was to allow hospital leadership to observe their staff in a high- stress environment and to evaluate how they responded to multiple incoming patients. The exercise also served to produce cohesive medical teams capable of providing crucial patient treatment in extreme circumstances.

"We need to know if we have the ability to stand on our own two feet," said Dr. (Col.) Sayed Azim Hossany, director, Herat Regional Medical Center. "This exercise lets our doctors and nurses make mistakes and then learn from them. We will know what we did wrong and the areas that we can improve in."

Azim said he plans to make the mass casualty exercise a quarterly event, and plans to keep his staff current on their skills to keep pace with the ever-changing environment around them.

"It is important to keep our staff well trained. We never know when a person will come through our doors for help and we need to be able to know how to treat them correctly," Azim said.

Herat Regional Medical Center is the main military hospital for the western region of Afghanistan and treats thousands of patients annually. The hospital currently has 50 beds and is planning to expand within the next year.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16