I am glad the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is taking active steps to ensure training injuries are attended to in a timely manner ("SAF's faster response to injuries in the field"; last Thursday).
However, I have a few concerns about the development.
When I served my active and reservist national service, the medics who served along with me were of very high quality, and were passionate people.
Bringing in civilian medics will cause the SAF medics to lose precious real-life clinical experiences, and deprive them of good lessons and learning material.
Combat medics are front-line soldiers. They know the terrain and military operations well, and are trained for that role and function.
Civilian medical equipment and vehicles are not suitable for use during military operations, as they are not manufactured to military grade.
Involving unscreened civilians in sensitive military operations may also be a breach of security.
There are some ways to counter these problems.
Use the civilian paramedics and nurses to enhance combat medic training. They can do the training of trainers. This will be more cost-effective than having civilians be on standby during exercises.
Attach our active and reservist medics to the Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance service and to hospital emergency departments for training, service and refresher courses.
Have regular exchanges between the SAF medical corps and medics of other armies.
Send out our SAF medics as first responders in disaster relief work. This will not only enable them to serve others, but also give them the chance to hone their skills in real life.
Hire more senior medics in each unit to supplement SAF medical officers and share the wide range of duties.
Enlist more medically trained volunteers under the new volunteer corps.
Many of my doctor friends have volunteered to extend their reservist duty under the SAF's roving scheme. This should continue, and the SAF should deploy them accordingly.
This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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