RFA Argus' hospital undergoes medical exercise

TWO dozen bloody, burned, smoke-blackened casualties kept military medics on their toes as RFA Argus’ hospital facilities were put to a warry test.

The veteran support ship spends most of her time hosting aviation training. But she is also home to a huge hospital facility – typically dormant, but activated in a crisis.

 

It stands ready to be brought to life 365 days a year if needed – the last time it was used on a military operation was in 2014-15 providing medical care for British personnel stemming the tide of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.

 

And once or twice a year, the complex is activity to test the whole process of dealing with casualties at sea – from the moment they are wounded to recovering after a life-saving operation.

 

A team of 138 medics, doctors, nurses, even plastic surgeons brought the dormant hospital facility to life ready to deal with the ‘casualties’, ferried from assault ship HMS Albion by RAF Chinook helicopter after the flagship ‘hit’ a mine.

 

Once they landed on Argus, medics assessed their wounds and injuries (known as triage) before swiftly moving the casualties in beds or on stretchers to the appropriate medical stations for treatment.

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to see my team deliver what they do best. Their ability to integrate into life at sea in a very short space of time and delivers the highest levels of medical care is humbling.

Commander Matt Faye, Commanding Officer of the Maritime Deployed Hospital Group

Although the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers have an impressive sick bay (including operating theatre) and surgical team (as well as the equivalent of a GPs’ surgery for day-to-day ailments), they are only designed to care for two seriously-ill patients for up to 72 hours.

The facilities on Argus – operating theatre, lab, CT scanner, intensive care unit and a ward – take treatment to the next level.

Despite her impressive facilities, Argus is not a hospital ship – there are strict definitions under international law – rather a primary casualty receiving ship; her medical team can treat serious battle injuries and stabilise them so they can be transferred to a hospital ashore to recuperate, recover and, if required, return to the front line.