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thedrifter
04-22-03, 07:54 AM
April 21, 2003

Fleet hospital busy caring for wounded

Associated Press



ROTA, Spain — Despite a decrease in American forces in Baghdad, casualties from the Iraq war continue to arrive at Fleet Hospital Bremerton, the mobile branch of Naval Hospital Bremerton, Wash.
The fleet hospital, which deployed to the southwest coast of Spain in mid-February, receives patients who have already gotten treatment or undergone surgery at a field hospital in Iraq or Kuwait.

“We get them once they’re stable enough to fly,” said Capt. Patrick Kelly, commander of Fleet Hospital Bremerton and executive officer at Naval Hospital Bremerton. “We’ve seen the whole range of injuries. We get a lot of non-battle injuries, like heart attacks, motor vehicle accidents, shrapnel or accidental gunshot wounds.”

Once patients leave the hospital, a few are sent back to their units in Iraq, but most return to the States.

On Sunday, Army forces took control of Baghdad from the Marines in a changing of the guard that thinned the military presence in the capital.

But with sporadic fighting continuing in Iraq and U.S. forces patrolling the region, casualties are still arriving and are expected to continue.

“There’s still a lot of troops in a combat zone,” Kelly told The Sun of Bremerton. “When you have those type of numbers, it’s predictable there will still be injuries or people will get sick.”

Stationed at Naval Station Rota, the fleet hospital has treated nearly 350 patients in six weeks.

Many of the patients now arriving are sick or were injured in non-battle accidents.

“It’s slowed a little bit,” Kelly said. “It’s predictable that we are starting to see fewer combat casualties as the ground war is winding down.”

On March 26, less than a week into the start of the Iraq War, the hospital received its first combat casualties. Seven people, suffering mostly shrapnel or gunshot wounds, marked the start of a busy month for the medical staff.

The tent-based hospital initially held 116 beds, but a 250-bed facility was completed April 8 as more staff arrived from Bremerton.

The bigger version covers 36,000 square feet, housing three operating rooms, four intensive care units and seven wards.

It had as many as 127 patients at one time, but now has fewer than 100.

The fleet hospital not only provides critical follow-on care, but a stable environment for wounded U.S. personnel to rest and relax. The average stay is between two and five days, Kelly said.

Chief Warrant Officer Chris Campbell, a communications officer assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was wounded a week into the war, taking shrapnel in his arm. He was transferred to the Rota facility April 5.

“The comfort aspects in Rota have been tremendous,” Campbell told a group of reporters.

This is the third deployment for the fleet hospital, which had previously been called up on two humanitarian missions — in Croatia in 1994 and Haiti in 1997.

Kelly said he’s received no indication when the fleet hospital will be sent back home.

“We just don’t know,” he said. “We have not been told. We’re planning, but until we get the call, it’s just planning.”






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Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.


Sempers,

Roger