WELSH Ambulance Service staff are preparing to travel to Afghanistan to put their life-saving skills to use in a military hospital.
WAST Afghan GroupThe four piece, including emergency medical technician (EMT) Nigel Smith, locality manager Dorian James, paramedic Karen Davies and clinical support nurse Nigel Heal, will be based at the Role 3 hospital at Camp Bastion, where wounded military personnel from the British, US and other ISAF forces in Helmand Province are evacuated to from the battlefield and treated.
They are about to embark on a rigorous training schedule ahead of their deployment, and are likely to serve up to six months abroad, including Christmas.
Nigel Smith, an EMT in the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) based in Bridgend, will work ‘front of house’ at the hospital, ensuring patients are disarmed before they undergo treatment. The father-of-four was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps before he joined the Welsh Ambulance Service, and has already seen action in Bosnia, the Falklands and Northern Ireland.
It will be his second visit to Afghanistan, following deployment in 2008 when he worked in an emergency department. Nigel, 48, from Aberbargoed, Caerphilly, said: “My first time in Afghanistan was quite daunting, but I’ll know what to expect on this tour. I’m there to do a job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Pembrokeshire-based Dorian James will work as a paramedic in the emergency department. He worked in Iraq in 2003 as a paramedic on an IRT helicopter, which also carries a surgeon and anaesthetist to treat casualties in the air.
Dorian, 40, from Pembroke, said: “The emergency department at Camp Bastion is one of the busiest in the world, so I see it as a huge learning curve. The experience I’ll get in Afghanistan I will never get anywhere else.”
Karen Davies, who is a HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) paramedic based in Welshpool, will also act as paramedic in the emergency department. Karen, 44, from Rhayader, Powys, said: “I’m feeling quite anxious because this is my first tour, but I look forward to the experience I will gain when I’m there. It’s not how I would usually spend my Christmas, but I’m going with a great bunch of people, so I know it’ll be one to remember.”
And Nigel Heal, a clinical support nurse based in Cwmbran, will work to ensure that care delivered at the hospital is to a high standard. Like the others Nigel, 55, from Blaenavon, Torfaen, has also seen service abroad, including in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He added: “Although my job is mainly office based managing the healthcare governance of the Role 3, I will certainly do my best to get in amongst the clinical side of things.”
Elwyn Price-Morris, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “To work in a hostile environment like Afghanistan is no mean feat, but the Trust has every faith that its staff will do a first class job of saving lives. We wish them the best of luck.”