Due to the nature and areas of South African military deployment, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) maintains a contingent capability to manage the outbreak of serious communicable diseases such as Ebola.
This capability includes negative pressure transport isolators and the only negative pressure room isolator in South Africa. This, a spokesman for the fourth arm of service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said, is ready for deployment to a hospital with a serious risk patient.
“This sealed unit is pitched inside a hospital ward to create a negative pressure isolation room in which a critical patient can be managed. This unique unit protects any person outside the unit by filtering all air from the unit through special filters and ultra violet light that kills all micro-organisms. It is equipped with hand wash facilities in the unit as well as the ability to administer oxygen and intensive care procedures.
“The unit and all its ancillary equipment is kept ready in Pretoria and can be moved by military aircraft to any hospital where it may be needed,” he said.
The negative pressure transport isolators are available for use immediately.
They are capsules that enable evacuation of a patient with, for example Ebola, from SANDF deployments in Africa to a hospital for isolation. These sealed capsules prevent exposure to any body fluids such as blood and all the air from the capsule is filtered to protect healthcare workers who accompany the patient. The capsule maintains a negative pressure at all times. In the unlikely event it is damaged it sucks in air and prevents the escape of micro-organisms.
These capsules, like the negative pressure room isolator, can be transported in military aircraft to any destination to collect a patient.
SAHMS healthcare workers are protected against possibly contaminated body fluids from patients by layered protective clothing which is incinerated when exiting an isolation area. Personnel are fully decontaminated each and every time they enter and exit isolation areas.
“SAHMS has presented specialised courses in high security bio-safety isolation for the past five years and has a core of trained staff to manage the isolation of a patient in military hospitals should it be required.
“A fully trained specialist aero-medical evacuation team is currently on stand-by should it be required to evacuate a patient from any of the mission areas the SANDF is deployed in continentally.
“If contamination of an incoming aircraft occurs due to an undiagnosed patient with a spillage of body fluids, a specialised SAMHS team is equipped to clean and decontaminate the aircraft,” he said adding, the country’s military health service was also ready to assist the Department of Health if and when needed with evacuation.