SAMHS general turns container into field hospital module


Innovation in military medical healthcare against a background of financial austerity led a senior SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) officer to develop a containerised module for a level 2 field hospital.

The man behind the concept, with a concept module to show for it to date, is Major General Lesley Ford, Chief Director: Military Health Force Support.

An SA National Defence Force (SANDF) LinkedIn post by Lieutenant Thabo Tukula, a SAMHS corporate communications junior officer, has it the containerised level 2 field hospital module “will challenge the industrial revolution and enhance SAMHS in its future deployment capabilities”.

“Depending on configuration, the module can be remotely controlled from a mobile phone. This new wave of technology was conceptualised and took Ford years of research and planning using personal resources. Hence, the intellectual property remains that of the designer.

“The prototype was built with a used container, painted and fitted by SAMHS artisans from the service’s technical support unit. The medical container can be powered by electricity, solar power or hydrogen fuel cells. Alternatively a combination all three can be used.”

People with knowledge of intellectual property (IP), its applications and ownership spoke to defenceWeb on condition of anonymity saying the IP situation in both the national defence force and the Department of Defence (DoD) was not “something in the public space”.

One offered the opinion the DoD “owned” any IP produced by its employees – even when done in personal time. “If the major-general is assigned sole IP ownership, to the point the DoD has to pay him if it acquires the containerised module, I would say it’s irregular.”

Another pointed to a system at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) where a shared royalty scheme is operational. “This could come into play should the IP for the module be licenced or otherwise further commercialised.”

“In combat, wounded soldiers need access to a safe environment, where they can receive competent surgical treatment backed by good nursing care all in a well-organised system and equipped with adequate supplies including water and power. Such a facility must be mobile and can be deployed under canvas for most combat or peace support operations (PSO) away from the built environment,” according to the LinkedIn post.

“The birth of the SAMHS containerised level 2 hospital module will embody all elements needed, as time is crucial role during operational health support to injured soldiers.

“This container will be able to handle demands in a limited timeframe, as it can be expanded speedily and be operational almost immediately. Additionally the design is such it can be airlifted by the current lift capability of the SA Air Force (SAAF).”

A level 2 field hospital is the highest level of medical care facility in the combat zone and normally deploys near an existing airfield and/or close to main or secondary roads as well as a rail link to expedite casualty evacuations. It forms part of a medical battalion group deployment and supports a force from battalion to brigade strength.

The containerised field hospital prototype has been presented to the SAMHS Command Structure.