Air Force Is Building Mini-Hospital In Liberia To Fight Ebola

Bob Brewin | | October 7, 2014

The Air Force’s Air Combat Command has started installation of what its command surgeon, Brig. Gen. Sean Lee Murphy, described as “a mini-community hospital” in Liberia as part of the Defense Department’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Murphy told Nextgov the 25-bed Expeditionary Medical Support System – or EMEDS – hospital dispatched to Liberia last month will be used to care for health care personnel in Liberia and will be turned over to the U.S. Public Health Service once it’s operational.  The World Health Organization said in late August more than 240 health care workers had developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 had died.

EMEDS, constructed from a series of modular tents, was first developed in the 1990s to support combat operations, said Col. Wayne Pritt, commander of the 633 Medical Group, which is based alongside the Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.  The system was later revamped to support humanitarian operations in the early 2000s. The Ebola mission marks another change of focus and the first time there will be an interagency handoff of the hospital, Pritt said.

"We are potentially setting a precedent, because the EMEDS unit is typically set up for things like trauma care … [Instead], we will be using it for an infectious pathogen and treatment of international health care workers,” said Navy Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, public health service acting deputy surgeon general.  The EMEDS installation is supported by 34 airmen, including medical technicians and doctors who will leave Liberia once the EMEDS installation is completed, Murphy said.  EMEDS occupies an area about three-quarters the size of a soccer field and is located adjacent to the Monrovia airport, Pritt said...