This elite medical team has worked on major health disasters around the globe – but they are about to take on their first challenge on home soil.
This elite medical team has worked on major health disasters around the globe – but they are about to take on their first challenge on home soil.

Disaster team ready for Australian-first deployment

THEIR resume reads like a roll call of major disasters - and the Australian Medical Assistance Team will be drawing on every bit of that overseas experience to help restore the North-West Regional Hospital's emergency department.

It is the first time an AUSMAT team has been deployed in Australia.

The highly trained personnel have helped health systems in developing nations recover from cyclones, typhoons, earthquakes and dengue fever outbreaks.

Colonel David Hughes said that experience stands them in good stead reopening a Tasmanian emergency department.

"It's the very first time that I'm aware of that this has occurred. The team is a really highly skilled and highly credentialed group that they normally operate at short notice deployments to humanitarian efforts overseas," he said.

"What that does mean is that they've got this really excellent experience to enable them to come into an area where the facilities aren't at the standard that we'd normally like them to be, and without necessarily the staff who are there to hand over to them.

"And so that's exactly what they're doing - they're here to provide that clinical lead and to ensure that opening and operating the emergency department at the North West Regional Hospital goes well."

Australian Defence Force personnel arrive in Wynyard to provide specialist medical support to the Australian medical assistance team at the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Australian Defence Force personnel arrive in Wynyard to provide specialist medical support to the Australian medical assistance team at the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie. Picture: PATRICK GEE

Colonel Hughes said the team contained a diverse mix of qualifications to help a hard-hit medical service recover in an emergency.

"They are very highly skilled group of medical professionals who engage in rapid deployments normally for humanitarian efforts for things like earthquakes and those kind of issues," he said.

"The health personnel are highly trained and well-equipped to deal with emergencies like this both locally and overseas.

"The team that is in Burnie includes general duties medical officers, emergency nurses, pharmacists, radiographers, environmental health officers and all the other professionals that are required to operate a fully functional emergency department."

The reopening of the region's sole emergency department has been pushed back twice in recent days as efforts to finish a "deep clean" hit setbacks.

Colonel David Hughes of the Australian Defence Force who is assisting with the co-ordination of the AUSMAT clean up of the North West Regional Hospital. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN
Colonel David Hughes of the Australian Defence Force who is assisting with the co-ordination of the AUSMAT clean up of the North West Regional Hospital. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

Colonel Hughes said it was critical that decontamination was carefully and thoroughly carried out for the safety of the team and for prospective patients once the facility reopens.

"We're standing ready to be able to provide the personnel to open that emergency department, but we are entirely reliant on the fact that that deep cleaning has taken place and that the deep cleaning is verified.

"While our absolute priority, and the absolute wish of our teams, is to be able to reopen that facility so that it is available again to the community, the safety of our personnel and the safety of the patients who they will be treating is absolutely paramount."

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said she hoped the NWRH emergency department would reopen on Friday.

Originally published as Disaster team ready for Australian-first deployment


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