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Deployment of field hospitals to disaster regions: Insights from ten medical relief operations spanning three decades

Michael Naor, PhD, Samuel N. Heyman, MD, Tarif Bader, MD, MHA, Ofer Merin, MD, MHA


Objective: The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Medical Corps developed a model of airborne field hospital. This model was structured to deal with disaster settings, requiring self-sufficiency, innovation and flexible operative mode in the setup of large margins of uncertainty regarding the disaster environment. The current study is aimed to critically analyze the experience, gathered in ten such missions worldwide.

Methods: Interviews with physicians who actively participated in the missions from 1988 until 2015 as chief medical officers combined with literature review of principal medical and auxiliary publications in order to assess and integrate information about the assembly of these missions.

Results: A body of knowledge was accumulated over the years by the IDF Medical Corps from deploying numerous relief missions to both natural (earthquake, typhoon, and tsunami), and man-made disasters, occurring in nine countries (Armenia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Turkey, India, Haiti, Japan, Philippines, and Nepal). This study shows an evolutionary pattern with improvements implemented from one mission to the other, with special adaptations (creativity and improvisation) to accommodate logistics barriers.

Conclusion: The principals and operative function for deploying medical relief system, proposed over 20 years ago, were challenged and validated in the subsequent missions of IDF outlined in the current study. These principals, with the advantage of the military infrastructure and the expertise of drafted civilian medical professionals enable the rapid assembly and allocation of highly competent medical facilities in disaster settings. This structure model is to large extent self-sufficient with a substantial operative flexibility that permits early deployment upon request while the disaster assessment and definition of needs are preliminary.


disaster relief, field hospital, military Medicine

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