Austere was engaged to provide a paramedic support to a seismic exploration project in the Barkly Tableland region of outback Queensland.
The project involved teams being spread out over large distances in unfamiliar and often featureless terrain, with significant transport times to higher healthcare. Austere spent the lead-up time reviewing the client’s emergency management plans, studying maps, and establishing routes (and alternate routes) for evacuation.
On-location, the Austere paramedic reviewed medical screen forms, provided safety and medical talks for the morning meetings to help team members take care of themselves as well as conduct welfare checks throughout the work day. The remote nature of the project meant that travel times to hospital or Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) aerodromes was significant (6+ hours in some areas). Communication in these environments is also difficult where mobile phone coverage is non-existent, and the team is spread out over an area greater than a hand-held radio can cover – satellite phones and satellite messenger (Garmin InReach) devices were employed to bolster communications.
Positioning of the medical vehicle throughout the project was a dynamic challenge. The on-location paramedic was constantly required to keep track of the seismic exploration teams in relation to the topography of the surrounding area to (a) maintain radio communications with at least a supervisor from each team and (b) ensure a timely medical response could be achieved anywhere across the 15-20 km worksite.
Other challenges the on-location paramedic need to overcome included; keeping medication within recommended temperatures in the hot, shadeless environment and, keeping dust out of oxygen, electronic and diagnostic equipment.