May 22, 2006

Baghdad ER: I give it a B- to a B

On May 21, HBO aired its documentary "Baghdad ER" about a U.S. Army combat support hospital (CSH, or "Cash") in Baghdad. For all the hype surrounding the film, it was rather tame.

My take:

I wish they would have been a bit more journalistic or scientific in their methodology. I couldn't tell if this was over a shift, a week, a month, or if they cherry picked cases they thought were interesting.

Also, the Army CSH in Baghdad is not the premier medical facility in country - the Air Force theater hospital at Balad Air Base is. The CSH primarily stabilizes and transports, doing surgery only if necessary. The theater hospital does almost everything.

I would have liked for them to explain why 90 percent of the casualties that make it to the CSH survive - and 96 percent that make it to Balad survive. Is it the battlefield care, better field trauma dressings, better body armor, etc.?

They went to great pains for OPSEC reasons to not say where the CSH was located, except that it was in the Green Zone ("I can't say anything more than that."). Anyone with a computer who does a search on 86th CSH (then) or 10th CSH (now) will locate them at the Ibn Sina* hospital. (Example: Combat Support Hospital Still Saving Lives.) The location of the hospital is well known. Anyone who reads Arabic - and the people we are trying to keep the information from can - would know as soon as they showed the first ten minutes.

I give it a B- to B.

* Ibn Sina (980-1037AD) was a Persian
physician considered by many to be "the father of modern medicine." His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine.