KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The big red letters on the large white sign at Kandahar Airfield’s Canadian-run Role 3 Multinational Hospital say it best: “The Best Care Anywhere.”
As of Thursday, it will require a footnote — “Under New Management.”
After three busy, challenging years under the guidance of Canadian doctors and soldiers, the Role 3 — the health-care hub of the major military headquarters in southern Afghanistan — is being turned over to the Americans, whose numbers at KAF are growing by the day.
Canada originally agreed to take responsibility for the facility for one year, but that agreement stretched into two years, and then three. Now, with massive U.S. reinforcements on hand, the time is right to hand over control of the facility.
There will likely be a tear or two to the eyes of the Canadian personnel who cared for the ramshackle facility for so long — particularly Col. Danielle Savard, the career soldier and trained pharmacist who has served as the hospital’s director.
“I am proud,” said Savard, the first and only woman to run the facility. “It was our time to shine, and we’ve been shining all the way, and all that because of the incredible team that we had in place.”
The official handover ceremony takes place Oct. 15, after which most of the current Canadian staff will be heading back to Canada following their six-month tour.
The effort in recent months to train U.S. personnel has been something of a challenge thanks to the fact that the incoming contingent includes American navy personnel, Savard added.
“We need to train them on the way we are working here,” she chuckled. “It’s different from a ship.”
Because personnel are constantly being rotated through Afghanistan, the operation has refined the way it passes training and information to incoming personnel — something the medical community could learn from, Savard added.
“This is something that the army is good at, and we need to do better in the medical world in the lessons learned and passing information from one roto to the other.”
Canada will still play a major part in providing health care at the Role 3, in much the way other countries have under the command of Savard and her predecessors over the past three years. But there is a sadness knowing that as of Thursday, things will be changing.
“It will be sad … It’s like the medical history book. I guess we just wrote another chapter and soon it will be the last page of it,” she acknowledged quietly.
“We need to start a new chapter doing something else, being embedded into another multinational places where our Canadians are going. That would be something amazing and will keep our people in the system and keep their skills up.”
Role 3 isn’t the only facility at Kandahar Airfield that’s experiencing change as the Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry gradually take over from members of the Quebec-based Royal 22e Regiment, the storied regiment known colloquially as the Van Doos.