The outcome of survivors within disaster areas largely depends upon the quick reallocation and operation of logistic and medical support systems. Enthusiastic media equipped with advanced communication systems, reveal mass human suffering in real time. But, the response period required for the organization of rescue systems is much slower and is most frustrating. In this article, we present our experience in quick deployment and operation of airborne field hospitals gained following the earthquake disaster in Armenia in 1988 and the civil war in Rwanda in 1994.
Deployment of improvised, volunteer-based, military field hospitals was feasible within 24 hours after the decision was made. A multi-disciplinary structure enabled an effective, flexible mode of operation and reduced the dependency on meticulous, time-consuming assessments of requirements prior to deployment.
These missions are a paradigm for the successful incorporation and integration within the capabilities of military infrastructure of volunteer professionals drafted from civil medical facilities. Such field hospitals could provide backup for primary care medical systems in disaster areas and substitute or take some pressure off of local hospitals, particularly when evacuation systems are insufficient.