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Makeshift hospital ready for casualties

PUBLISHED: 11:09 23 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:43 03 March 2010

A MAKESHIFT hospital at RAF Lakenheath's rolling skating rink would be among the first places casualties from the air and ground strikes against the Taliban are taken.

A MAKESHIFT hospital at RAF Lakenheath's rolling skating rink would be among the first places casualties from the air and ground strikes against the Taliban are taken.

More than 100 temporary beds have been installed, ready to take any American casualties from the conflict in Afghanistan.

The USAF base, which already has the largest American military hospital in Europe, has boosted the number of beds and can increase the number to about 200.

Extra medical staff have even been drafted into Suffolk from USAF bases in the United States.

Major Steve Mazer, from the base's medical squadron, has been responsible for setting up the facility.

"We have always had the bed expansion plan and two weeks ago we put it into effect," he said.

"If needed, this area could deal with about 100 walking wounded, such as those suffering shrapnel wounds.

"We are ready and this facility will remain set up until we are told it is not needed any more."

As well as the rink, office space has been taken over to house more beds for the sick and wounded.

It is the only facility of its kind in the country and casualties would either be brought to Lakenheath or taken instead to military hospitals based in Germany.

"Right now, a small contingency of medical staff have arrived from the United States but more could be coming in – the number of people we could treat depends on the numbers of staff we have," Major Mazer said.

But despite the sense of readiness and anticipation for the worst, people at the base are still hoping for the best, and keeping their fingers crossed that facilities such as the one in Lakenheath will not have to be used.

"We are prepared in every way but hope we never need to use it," Major Mazer said.

"I hope we will sit around, then pack it all away and the kids can have their skating rink back."

The last time the rink was converted into a makeshift hospital facility was during the Gulf War – and on that occasion, it proved not to be needed.

"It is humbling," Major Mazer said. "I hope I never have to use this stuff but we are set up and ready as we have to be."

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