Appropriate medical and first aid services

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 2: 2016 

NOPSEMA was recently notified of a patient requiring urgent medical treatment being sent by an operator to a small regional airport, by way of a normal crew transfer, and subsequently transferred to the local hospital. On medical examination, the patient was immediately sent back to the airport and put on the first available scheduled commercial passenger flight to Perth and then to the Royal Perth Hospital for major surgery. Doctors involved in this instance expressed concerns to NOPSEMA about the delays in the timely provision of appropriate medical care associated with the decision to transfer the patient by normal crew transfer rather than dedicated medivac.

Operators should be aware that the medical facilities available in small regional towns may have limited facilities and will likely be ill-equipped to deal with patients requiring major surgery and the associated aftercare. Operators are also reminded that any delays in patients receiving appropriate medical care and treatment may have a significant impact on the patient’s immediate well-being and long-term recovery.

Operators must ensure their emergency response arrangements for members of their workforce, who suffer an illness or injury, appropriately consider options which minimise delays in medical care and treatment. For example, the option to medivac a patient from a facility operating in the Carnarvon Basin directly to Karratha hospital rather than via a regular crew change to Learmonth, and then Exmouth Hospital, could limit potential delays in appropriate treatment due to:

• Karratha heliport being much closer to the Karratha Hospital than Learmonth heliport is to the Exmouth Hospital

 • Karratha hospital being better equipped than the Exmouth Hospital, having superior medical facilities for stabilising patients and some access to surgical staff.

• Karratha hospital having access to dedicated medical transport services to expedite transfer of urgent medical cases to Perth, and therefore a patient can be taken to the Royal Perth Hospital much quicker from Karratha than they could from Exmouth.

NOPSEMA reminds operators of their duty to take all reasonable practicable steps to implement and maintain appropriate procedures and equipment for the control of, and response to, emergencies at the facility.