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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT 06:11 UK
British forces 'treat injured Taleban'
By Tulip Mazumdar
Newsbeat reporter, Camp Bastion, Afghanistan

All week Newsbeat has a series of special reports from Afghanistan's Helmand Province. First, we've been given special access to the new 10m field hospital at the main British base in the province, Camp Bastion. It's where all British troops, as well as Afghan National Army recruits, are flown for emergency treatment if they are injured in the field.

Casualty on a stretcher
If someone arrives at the hospital alive the chances of survival are very good, according to Lt Col Kevin Davies

The alarm goes. By the time we realise what's happening and run out towards the entrance, there's only a cloud of dust to be seen.

The Chinook helicopter carrying the three members of the Medical Evacuation Response Team (MERT) are already on their way to the town of Gereshk a few miles away.

A suicide bomber has blown himself up. A man from the Afghan National Police caught up in the blast has been seriously injured.

For the Taleban, this man, who is supported by Nato troops, is the enemy.

Grand plans

In spring 2007 British troops had started reconstruction work in this town and the foundations for a new school were being laid down.

The Chinook helicopter carries members of the response team

There were grand plans for some level of normality by now. But many things haven't gone to plan in Helmand.

Thanks to resurgent Taleban fighters, British troops have been forced to retain a presence in the area.

Suicide or roadside bombs are now the biggest threat facing British troops in Afghanistan.

In Helmand Province they've seen a rise in the number of leg and arm wounds as a result.

Within 15 minutes the MERT team is back. A dark green ambulance with a red cross emblazoned on its side is at the landing area waiting.

The Chinook lands just a couple of hundred metres from the hospital entrance.

The patients are stretchered out, put on to the ambulance and rushed into the resuscitation room.

Around 20 medics get to work on him.

He is conscious but has serious wounds to his legs and arms. He is bloodied and clearly in a lot of pain.


Afghanistan in numbers
94 British troops dead
122 seriously or very seriously injured
1202 field hospital admissions - most but not all will be to Bastion field hospital
Figures from 2001 to 15th March 08

Soldiers say the new 10m British field hospital is one of the best possible places in the world he could have been brought to.

Until a few months ago the hospital was a tented area like most of the other enclosed parts of Camp Bastion.

But since February around a hundred medics have been working in the new brick building.

It also holds millions of pounds worth of state-of-the-art medical technology, including a 500,000 CT scanner.

It's used to find internal injuries within seconds which can make the difference between life and death.

'We treat everybody'

Lt Col Kevin Davies
Lt Col Kevin Davies is second in command at the hospital

Lt Col Kevin Davies is second in command at the hospital. He said: "We see some very serious injuries.... more limb injuries in the main than body injuries.

"If someone arrives here alive, the chances of survival are very, very good."

There are 125 medics who work around the clock and 37 beds at the moment, but there is room for expansion.

Col Davies added: "We treat everybody for life, limb and eyesite saving interventions. Any traumatic or life threatening illness we will treat, regardless of whether it's our forces, coalition forces, Afghan nationals or indeed the Taleban."

He said the hospital has probably treated about 50 or so Taleban fighters who've been badly injured, saving many of their lives.

They are then handed over to Afghan authorities.

When asked whether any of the Taliban fighters he has treated have thanked him for his care he laughed and said "no".

Afghanistan diary: day one
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
Afghanistan diary: day two
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  Newsbeat
In pictures: Camp Bastion hospital
Monday, 28 April 2008, 05:11 GMT |  The P Word

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