New Joint Theater Hospital Offers Advanced Care in Afghanistan

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, March 5, 2007 - In 2006, Army Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig, a medic with the 159th Medical Company, 10th Mountain Division, was holding a patient desperately as they were both being hoisted from a ridgeline by a Black Hawk helicopter. Halfway to the chopper, the line snapped, and Craig and his patient fell to their deaths.

The Craig Joint Theater Hospital, named for him, opened for business here yesterday, offering patients here a whole new level of care and doctors a new level of technology with which to work.

"The new Craig Joint Theater Hospital is a state-of-the-art hospital that rivals any stateside hospital of equivalent size," said Air Force Col. Bart Iddins, Task Force Med commander. "The new facility meets all current requirements but leaves room for expansion as needed."

The hospital is the most advanced one in the area of operations and features a four-bed trauma bay, three operating rooms and a state-of-the-art dental clinic.

The biggest advantage the new facility offers is its cleanliness. "It's a cleaner environment, more sterile," Hawkins said.

Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Clifford Perez, TF Med general surgeon, said the cleaner, more sterile environment will be of great help after surgeries. "We seldom closed our wounds immediately," he said of surgeries at the old hospital. "We used a lot of new techniques in wound care, and U.S. soldiers were sent out to other facilities when the chance of infection was increased."

The new hospital also has more room for patients, sporting nearly 50 beds, twice as many as in the old hospital.

Air Force 1st Lt. Karis Russell, a nurse, said the new equipment is a great help. "As a nurse, the extra space is good," she said. "We also have more monitors and oxygen for every bed."

"The new facility is equipped with the most advanced medical equipment and medical technology that is currently available. It is truly first rate," Iddins said.

"It feels like a hospital that's stateside," Perez agreed. "I was very excited to come and work here. We have a lot more capability."

As happy as she is to work at the new hospital, Russell said she has happy memories of working at the old one. "There are some things I'll miss," she said. "Being able to go outdoors with the patients so easily. It's very healing."

While having new equipment is nice, Iddins said, it is the people that make the real difference. "It is the dedication, knowledge and skills of its staff that makes Craig Joint Theater Hospital a premier world-class medical organization," he said.

"The new hospital clearly represents the United States of America's continuing commitment to provide only the finest medical care for its servicemembers and coalition partners," Iddins said.

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher is assigned to the Regional Command East Public Affairs Office.)

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