Earlier this year EMGS was given the privilege of having the opportunity to travel overseas to Bagram Air Field near Kabul, Afghanistan to inspect the medical gas System at SSG Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital. We have done many jobs on military bases here in the United States, but being able to go to a forward operating base was truly an experience that I will never forget, and one that I am truly grateful for.
This facility obviously has many hurdles that typical hospitals would never even imagine having to overcome due to its location and the type of patients it serves, but I want to focus on two of them: the ability to produce and store oxygen in a remote location, and the ability to maintain a vacuum system in the environment and climate in which the facility is located.
Craig Joint Theater Hospital (CJTH) is located approximately 50 mile from Kabul, Afghanistan. There are no oxygen production facilities anywhere near here, and in order to maintain a reliable oxygen system to serve the facility they had to utilize an oxygen generation system. Essentially, they take air and filter out the nitrogen and other elements in order to increase the oxygen content of the gas. As they compress the gas it is pushed through filters increasing the percentage of oxygen. The oxygen content would top out between 91-93% as opposed to the typical 99.5-99.9% coming off of Oxygen bulk tanks here in the States. In order to have a back up system the facility would use this gas to fill standard “H” cylinders and hook them up to emergency headers. As you can imagine this system is quite large and requires a tremendous amount of energy to function.
The facility also has a constant fight to maintain the vacuum pump systems. The systems face two obstacles at all times. The fine dust and dirt in the area that the hospital is located, and the fact that the hospital is located nearly 5000 ft. above sea level. The pumps themselves required maintenance at more regular intervals than typical systems due to the dust, and there is a higher stress load on the pumps because of the altitude. At close to 5000 ft. above sea level the correction factor for the vacuum load is 20% more than a system at sea level.
The facility was designed with these challenges and many others in mind. The typical medical gas system has redundancies built in to ensure that a medical gas is never totally lost, but CJTH takes this to another level. The facility has two sets of source equipment with each one serving half of the hospital. They have an intricate system in which they can feed the entire facility from either set of source equipment.
With all of the additional obstacles that a facility like this one faces it was clear to see that the prevention of a loss of medical gas to the patient was something that was of high priority.