The 131st Field Hospital conducted a week-long training exercise to evaluate the Army Medicine's modernized modular-design field hospital concept at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 13-17.
The field hospital, part of the 528th Hospital Center which was previously known as the 31st Combat Support Hospital, became the second active-duty unit in the Army to convert and test the updated modular design in April 2018. The training exercise is the first-of-its-kind for the unit, incorporating Soldiers internal and external to the unit to increase proficiency, efficiency and build camaraderie.
"The exercise is designed to set up the 131st FH in its entirety, which is an 88-bed hospital capability," said Lt. Col. Deon Maxwell, commander 131st Field Hospital, 528th Hospital Center. "We're setting up the hospital, internalizing all the sections which are associated with the hospital from patient administration to outpatient clinics."
Among the clinical specialties assessed during the exercise were physical therapy, dental, pharmacy, emergent care, and even patient administration processes.
"The way the (field hospital) is designed is to have an early entry capability, (a 32-bed field hospital detachment)," said Maxwell. "We have all the capabilities plus added value (because) we're smaller and easier to move."
In addition to the field hospital detachment, the unit may also deploy with three additional detachments providing 24, 32 and 60-bed augmentation, each with a specific assignment to meet the needs of the mission and capable of deploying individually or augment other field hospitals. In a field environment, the field hospital is capable of providing level III patient care, based off Army Medicine's five levels of care (also known as roles), meaning the field hospital is staffed and equipped to provide care such as resuscitation, initial surgery and post-operative. The field hospital is the highest level of care in a combat zone.
The exercise not only familiarized and tested the 131st Field Hospital Soldiers, it allowed for improvements to the modular design to best suit unit and mission needs.
"We have some things we've learned about the original design of the hospital that we've (took note of) and made some tweaks to make the flow of the hospital work better," said Maxwell. "We're making sure we have every clinical section laid out in an efficient manner to provide high-quality patient care and increase positive outcomes."
With additional Soldiers as part of the Professional Filler System (PROFIS), an Army Medicine program designed to assign medical specialists to U.S. Army Forces Command units in order to meet the needs of the battlefield, the exercise enhanced patient care efficiency by allowing both novice and seasoned Soldiers an opportunity to test the new field hospital design.
"The flow is much more different than it was (as a Combat Support Hospital)," said Sgt. Christian Villarreal, operating room technician, who has been assigned to the unit for two and a half years. "I like this layout much better."
According to Villarreal, a native of Moreno Valley, California, the exercise benefits new Soldiers, as they learn their roles in the field hospital, and combat veterans such as himself, as they gain experience with the new design.
"It's always good to be prepared ahead of time, expect the unexpected," said Villarreal. "Doing this exercise is helping our unit because all of us are having to set up and it lets the new Soldiers know ahead of time they better be prepared for what's really going to happen."
"I believe this training has been a true value added to myself and my staff. We got some real good training in a field environment," said Maxwell. "If we are called (to deploy) my unit is more than able and ready. We're testing ourselves and attempting to get better to deploy at a moment's notice if and when we're called."
The 131st Field Hospital has a long and storied history providing level III medical care to troops in combat zones beginning in 1938 when the unit was constituted as the 31st Surgical Hospital. The unit was later re-designated as a Portable Surgical Hospital, Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and as a Combat Support Hospital.