US Army DEPMEDS Combat Support Hospital.  DEPMEDS are standardized modular field hospitals that can be pre-positioned in the event of a contingency, national emergency, or war operations
US Army DEPMEDS Combat Support Hospital. Click for more information and larger DEPMEDS image. DEPMEDS are standardized modular field hospitals that can be pre-positioned in the event of a contingency, national emergency, or war operations.

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History of Deployable Medical Systems (DEPMEDS)

Intensive Care Unit of DEPMEDS, Health Services Command regional training site, Ft. McCoy, WI, 10 April 1992
Intensive Care Unit of DEPMEDS, Health Services Command regional training site, Ft. McCoy, WI, 10 April 1992.

DEPMEDS was developed in the early 1980s as a result of Congressional concern with the U.S. Military Services' purchasing different equipment for similar requirements. The Defense Medical Standardization Board was made responsible for the specification of a system of Medical Materiel Sets (MMS), developed and configured into generic, standardized building blocks. The MMS were used by the Services to configure their systems, formally designated as DEPMEDS.

Probably the first test of a Deployable Medical Systems (DEPMEDS) hospital took place at Ft. Hood, TX where the 21st Evac Hospital performed a Quad service exercise from August to December of 1984. In February 1988 the 8th Evacuation Hospital, Fort Ord, CA, deployed to Fort Hunter Liggett, CA, and set up a 400-bed DEPMEDS. Eighty-five Professional Officer Filler System (PROFIS) personnel involved with a para-professional staff conducted the DA-directed assessment and validation of the effectiveness of the DEPMEDS and provided Test and Experimentation Command (TEXCOM) with the results. The 8th Evacuation Hospital became the first DEPMEDS hospital as part of the Army's Force Modernization and AMEDD's Medical Force 2000 (MFKK) plan, which focused on standardizing medical facilities throughout the Department of Defense.

In January 1989, the 8th Evacuation Hospital conducted the first DEPMEDS overseas deployment to provide patient care in support of the Fuertes Caminos 89 road-building project in Honduras. The first surgery and the first live birth occurred in this DEPMEDS facility, as part of the medical Humanitarian Civic Action (HCA) mission. This overseas deployment provided joint training in delivering patient care in a DEPMEDS hospital for the active Army, Army National Guard, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force reserve components.

DEPMEDS were assembled and shipped to Europe, prepositioned for potential emergencies there. Some of these modules were tranported to Iraq in 1991 to support Desert Storm. DEPMEDS has been used since that time in all operational deployments of U.S. forces for Army Combat Support Hospitals and other field medical facilities. In addition to use of DEPMEDS for military deployments, they have served as a temporary alternative for clinic space, ORs, laboratory services, and central services activities during emergencies due to natural disasters or during renovation projects.

DEPMEDS Description

DEPMEDS is a complex of air transportable units assembled to meet a specific mission. Critical modules are housed in rigid aluminum ISO-standard shelters, including laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, sterilization departmetns and operating rooms. Auxiliary functions are housed in TEMPER units (Tent, Expandable, Modular, Personnel) as well as vans. DEPMEDS container modules are linked together with passageways to meet the full range of field medical facility requirements. DEPMEDS units can range in size from a single general-purpose lab to a 1,000-bed hospital. A typical DEPMEDS hospital would include laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, patient wards, operating rooms and emergency medical treatment sections.

DEPMEDS siting requires good hardstand to support the heavy equipment such as the X-ray unit. In order to be able to complex the tents together, there can only be a few inches of variance in the surface of the ground. The DEPMEDS need for flat terrain may require engineering support to level off the surface of the ground. This can strip away the top soil, leading to muddy conditions when it rains, unless the site has proper contour. Further consideration must be given to good drainage for disposal of DEPMEDS waste water/gray water.

Chemically Protected Deployable Medical Systems (CP DEPMEDS)

CP DEPMEDS is a containerized set that provides DEPMEDS facilities with a capability to sustain operations in an NBC environment. The modular system integrates environmentally controlled collective protection elements into the hospital to reduce casualties and enhance combat effectiveness. CP DEPMEDS uses M28 Collective Protection Equipment (M28 CPE), power, waste, and latrine management assets to provide an extended hospital capability for a 72-hour mission in a contaminated environment.

In addition to filters and tent liners, the modular M28 CPE system has motor blowers to move the contaminated air through the filters, through a chemically and biologically protected environmental control unit and then into the tents and shelters.

Patients entering a CP DEPMEDS facility are decontaminated first. They are held in an airlock for one minute to purge any remaining contaminants before in-processing.

The first operational test of CP DEPMEDS was held in August 1997 at Fort Carson, CO. More than 400 soldiers successfully performed simulated medical operations while encapsulated in the facility for three days. CP DEPMEDS was first deployed to U.S. Army Combat and Field Hospitals during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003).

Thanks to Denise Amundson (US Army 1983-1988) for help with this page.

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