KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - To the strains of the Star-Spangled Banner, the Stars and Stripes was hoisted Thursday over the Role 3 Multinational Hospital as Canadian commanders handed over the helm during a change of command ceremony at Kandahar Airfield.

The ceremony marked the official end of Canada's three-year run in charge of the storied facility, where Canadian doctors, soldiers and civilians earned a reputation for providing excellent medical care under the most difficult of circumstances.

"Today, on the Canadian side, we are writing the last page of a great chapter of the Canadian Forces Health Services history," said Col. Danielle Savard, the hospital's outgoing commander.

"I am only one of the (commanding officers) that was part of this great journey."

There will still be about 30 Canadian personnel that will be working at Role 3, along with other medics who will continue working as part of the contingent known as Task Force Kandahar.

The hospital saw more than 6,000 patients in the past six months, 880 of them suffering from trauma, said Savard. Canada will continue to send medical personnel and combat medics in subsequent troop rotations, she added.

"Six months ago I told you that this unit was ready to face the challenges to come by using the great potential of each and every one of the personnel from each unit," Savard said proudly.

"Today I am convinced we have accomplished with great success this very demanding mission ... with limited staff and multiple hours, we have saved more lives then we could have possibly thought we would do."

Dutch Army Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruiff, the current commander of the NATO contingent in the quadrant of Afghanistan known as Regional Command South, said 253 coalition troops -- 34 of them Canadians -- have been killed since he took over in November of last year.

That number, he said, would have been far higher had it not been for the men and women of Role 3.

"In this year, we've medevaced more than 4,000 patients, and all of them needed urgent medical treatment. Only a few of them did not survive," de Kruiff said.

"These figures show that we have a robust and courageous medical system in place, and also tells you something about our Role 3."

Savard is being replaced by U.S. Navy Capt. Darin Via, who has experience with a Role 3 hospital in Iraq.

"Obviously I am honoured and humbled to be in this position, to take over from Col. Savard and the Canadians," Via said.

"They've done a phenomenal job here and it's going to be tough shoes to fill, but I think we have the right people to make it a very successful mission."

A new, larger hospital facility is currently under construction adjacent to the current location.