Commanding a military force on the losing end of a battle or skirmish can throw up all sorts of logistical problems, the most pressing being the timely treatment of any wounded personnel.
One option for the treatment of wounded is the hospital ship, but these are said to be expensive to maintain during peacetime and cannot be deployed very quickly if a conflict is taking place many nautical miles from port.
A European company has, however, developed a modular field hospital that can be stacked onto the decks of nearly any vessel, ready for instant operation in times of need.
Dornier’s Marine Emergency Rescue Centre (MERC), a modified version of the TransHospital, is made up of 26 special containers and is said to represent a fully portable emergency hospital, complete with an intensive care unit and pathology labs. The modularity of the containers means that they can be laid out according to need or be combined with extra units to meet increased demands.
The container units can be sealed and either left on deck or stored in a warehouse when not in use. As long as the pharmaceuticals and other perishables are kept stocked and in date, the MERC can be out of service indefinitely.
There are currently two MERC hospitals in service, which have been integrated with a pair of combat support vessels belonging to the German navy. These ships were designed to house the MERC, but if necessary, the containers could be packed aboard aircraft and sent across the world where they could be reassembled.
The hospital of 26 containers is designed to mount in a two-storey configuration. The core section, said to be capable of treating up to 50 patients, consists of two operating rooms that can be used simultaneously.
The MERC is also equipped with an X-ray area, an intensive care unit, dentists’ rooms and laboratories, a pharmacy, a clinical and microbiological laboratory and a sterilisation facility. Additional modules can be fitted as need and deck space permits.
The ward is located in the inner section of the facility and is supplied with pressure and oxygen by MERC’s integral systems whilst the water and power supply, as well as the waste disposal, is carried out by the host ship’s infrastructure.