Air Force demonstrates new equipment for transport of patients with infectious diseases

Jul 23, 2015

A military training exercise brought a C-17 aircraft equipped with patient transport units to Offutt Air Force Base on Thursday.

Maj. Edward McCann, a critical care physician based at Lackland Air Force Base, discusses the capabilities of a Patient Isolation Unit.
Credit Katie Knapp Schubert / KIOS-FM

The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, based in Alaska, flew in to Offutt Air Force Base Thursday morning as part of a training exercise. Onboard the aircraft were a Transport Isolation System and a Patient Isolation Unit.

The Transport Isolation System can hold multiple patients, and is designed for transporting patients with Ebola. The Patient Isolation Unit holds one person, and is for people with infectious diseases such as SARS.

Major Ed McCann, a critical care physician based at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, says there are limitations to a Patient Isolation Unit, most notably its size. He says they have to be careful that the unit doesn't sustain trauma during transport.  Also, he says the medical team is limited in some of the critical care functions it can provide to a patient in the unit, such as chest compressions.

The Department of Defense hopes to have 25 Transport Isolation Systems available. Although those can hold up to six patients at a time, it's unlikely that many would be a TIS at once.

During the training exercise, a simulated patient in the Isolation Unit was loaded in to an ambulance for transport to Nebraska Medicine.