Personnel mitigate pandemic’s spread on operations

Published on LEUT Elliott Bannan (author), LSIS Craig Walton (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation HIGHROAD

Australian medical staff at the medical facility at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (photo: LSIS Craig Walton)
Australian medical staff at the medical facility at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Task Group Afghanistan’s medical contingent at the coalition medical facility at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is at the front line of efforts to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID-19.

Captain Lucinda Stephenson said the 12 Australian medical staff and the Combat First Aid (CFA) personnel supporting them have been confronted with new and challenging tasks.

“As the reality of the pandemic became clear, we were required to raise an entire ward capability, which had not been maintained permanently for a number of years,” Captain Stephenson said.

“The CFAs from the Task Group’s force protection platoon received additional training in the screening and management of potential COVID cases to assist us if there was an outbreak or a patient required clinical care.”

Australian personnel at other locations in Kabul, including Qargha and Resolute Support Headquarters, have also established COVID-19 protocols that have since proved vital to preserving the health and safety of deployed personnel.

Supporting the hospital’s US-led epidemiological response is RAAF Scientific Officer Flight Lieutenant Kathryn Staughton.

Flight Lieutenant Staughton is testing potential COVID-19 carriers using the Australian-supplied diagnostic platforms BioFire Torch and Cepheid Gene Xpert.

“We’ve run over 200 tests on the Australian platforms since the beginning of April. These efforts have contributed to successfully mitigating the disease on the base,” Flight Lieutenant Staughton said.

“The CFAs complement the testing with direct support in the daily management of the quarantine zone.”

Support includes moving suspected cases to the hospital for testing and positive patients to the quarantine zone for isolation and conducting daily welfare and vital sign checks on isolated patients.

The success of the testing and isolation program has enabled coalition advisers on the base to continue their train, advise and assist mission remotely.