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55th MDG tests new patient decontamination systems

  • Published
  • By Paul Shirk
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 55th Medical Group field tested three new patient decontamination systems at Offutt Air Force Base’s Ehrling Bergquist Clinic June 4 - 8, 2018. The tests, part of an Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity pilot program, were held to see which system has the potential to be deployed to medical units throughout the Air Force.

In an emergency situation, patient decontamination systems are used to wash dangerous materials off of patients before they enter a military treatment facility. Patients enter one end of a rigid, specialized tent and are sprayed down with warm water before exiting the other end.

The new systems offer numerous benefits, including being smaller and easier to set up compared to previous systems.

The tents can accommodate patients who are able to walk as well as patients on litters using a conveyor. The contaminated water is captured for safe disposal.

“The systems we were testing are smaller, requiring less manpower to setup and operate,” said Maj. David Spaulding, In-Place Patient Decontamination Team pilot unit team chief. “This will free up more personnel to be tasked in other manners. It should give smaller military treatment facilities the ability to utilize their personnel in a more diverse way.”

Putting the systems through their paces were members of the IPPD Team. Day to day, Airmen on the IPPD Team serve in various roles as medical providers and technicians. Half of the team is assigned to Offutt AFB and the other half was sourced from Airmen assigned to Air Force Space Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Force Materiel Command or Air Education and Training Command, providing a diverse set of backgrounds and missions to evaluate the new systems.

To keep the evaluation process impartial, the three vendors of each system were given the same length of time and conditions to present their products and train the Airmen who would be testing them. Vendors did not partake in the testing, allowing the IPPD to reach their own conclusions without any external input.

Conditions for the test were kept as real as possible. The IPPD Team wore disposable toxic agent protective suits and respirators and used a mannequin as the injured patient. They repeatedly set up, used and tore down each system. Any flaws in the product design became clear through repetitive uses. Members of the IPPD Team then gave their impressions on how each system worked.

“I felt honored to be able to serve in a way that can potentially optimize IPPD Teams across the Air Force and potentially the DOD,” said Senior Airman William Davis, 55th Medical Support Squadron pharmacy technician and member of the IPPD Team. “I hope that these optimizations can benefit the force as a whole.”

The members of the IPPD Team were not the only ones involved with the tests. Observing the tests were representatives from the Air Force Medical Evaluation Support Activity and Air Combat Command.

“I'm looking for a lot of things,” said Anthony McCray, Medical Readiness Specialist Lead, Air Combat Command Surgeon General’s Office. “Safety, does it have the capability to do what the customer said they would do, area, interior space of operation, exterior space of operation. Are we able to perform patient decontamination safely within this system here?”

Recommendations from the IPPD Team and inspectors will be forwarded up for further review. The winning patient decontamination system is planned to be operational in fiscal year 2019.