When naval operations mean surgery at sea...

SINGAPORE - From cuts to burns and even bomb wounds, naval medics can be called upon to deal with all manner of trauma injuries.

And they do it while negotiating the pitch and roll of heavy seas.

The Straits Times caught a glimpse of the conditions they work in ahead of last weekend's Navy Open House, which featured a mock-up of an operating theatre.

For a start, the medics may have to conduct surgery on heaving seas.

As if that was not enough, there are the space constraints inherent in working on a tight ship.

To get around this problem, the Republic of Singapore Navy improvises by building facilities with multiple functions.

For example, its ship medical centre can be converted into an emergency operating theatre at just 30 minutes' notice.

Like the Transformers in the hit movies, the ship dining hall is also more than meets the eye. When necessary, it can metamorphose into an intensive care unit, with dining tables becoming beds, and medical equipment being placed on temporary brackets.

The mock operating theatre at last weekend's open house at Changi Naval Base came complete with surgical tools.

There was also a sophisticated life-sized dummy which simulated not only basic functions such as heart rate but also sweating and pupil dilation. The public had a chance to use it by taking part in medical drills and performing damage control surgery.

"People don't usually see us in action," said Major (Dr) David Law. "Through the open house, we want to create public engagement with naval medical support at sea."


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