By Staff Sgt. Cody HardingJuly 29, 2013
SKOPJE, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (July 24, 2013) -- Multinational Battle Group- East's Task Force Medical Evacuation ran their first test flight from Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo to Skopje as a part of their new medical evacuation agreement with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia July 24.
The agreement allows Task Force MEDEVAC to fly urgent patients, whose medical situation exceeds the capabilities of the two Kosovo Forces' hospitals in Kosovo, to be transported by air to one of three different approved landing sites in Skopje. Upon arrival, they are received by members of the FYROM military and are transported to receive advanced specialized stabilization at the Sistina Hospital.
The agreement began several years ago when Dr. Nikola Gjorgov, a cardiologist with Sistina Hospital, heard about a fatality in KFOR. He approached KFOR with the idea of using the facilities at Sistina, and from there helped coordinate the issues with landing zones and patient transport.
The agreement was in place for several years until it was forced to be put on hold due to legal issues. The flight on July 24 is the return of the program, as the President of the Republic of Macedonia enacted into law on May 13, 2013 an agreement between KFOR and the Macedonia Minister of Defense allowing for the urgent air medical evacuation of KFOR personnel into Macedonia.
"With the efforts of the Army of Macedonia General Staff, they provided an implementation standard operating procedure which was presented for our review," said U.S. Army Maj. Marc Welde, the commander for TF MED and Ogden, Utah native. "After thorough analysis by our staff and the MEDEVAC team, we provided essential comments to better facilitate MNBG-E operations into Macedonia."
One of the largest hurdles in renewing the agreement was in communication between the units in Kosovo and in FYROM, according to Welde.
"This all in addition to the complexity of what the flight crews must do in order to conduct cross-border air operations, under time sensitive situations that could have catastrophic implications if things go awry," Welde said. "The original procedure required us to submit the request by fax, however, during both the real and exercise operation, we found fax to be extremely unreliable."
The test flight also allowed Welde and the FYROM officials the opportunity to work out lines of communication and other issues that could keep a soldier from receiving treatment.
Although the test flight was the first full test of the system, a few days earlier, a KFOR soldier was medically evacuated to Sistina by air for medical issues that couldn't be treated at the hospital at Camp Prizren. The soldier made it safely to Sistina Hospital and is now in recovery.
Welde thanked all of the parties involved for their professionalism in being able to solidify the agreement and looks forward to continuing to build a close working relationship.
"We are very thankful for the Army of the Republic of Macedonia and the Sistina Hospital for their coordination and support efforts in the development of this standard operating procedure," said Welde. "This exercise served as an example of effective coordinated use of airspace between nations, coordination between militaries, and synchronization between medical treatment facilities, all with a common goal of preserving the life of an injured or ill soldier."
Gjorgov was similarly pleased to get the agreement back into place.
"We are grateful that Sistina [Hospital] can help NATO," Gjorgov said. "We are thankful to them for keeping peace in this region, and we would like to help them in any way possible."