Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Thankfully, we don’t have many incoming field casualties to the Raoul Island Hospital. However, the fact that the island is 1000km and a 10 hour round trip by helicopter from New Zealand, means we need to be well resourced in order to deal with medical emergencies.

Our Hospital is a small separate building located behind the hostel.

The hospital

It contains a modest supply of pharmaceuticals, an extensive range of dressings, plastering materials, surgical and dental instruments and oxygen. As we are away from base most days (sometimes a walk of 90 mins) each group has a team member that carries a well equipped field first aid kit which includes adrenaline, antihistamines, analgesics and dressings. In the event of a serious field injury, a grab-pack is stored in the hospital and this can be brought to the injury site when requested by radio.

Inside the treatment room

We swung into gear last week when informed at base, that a weeder had been hit by a falling rock. Chauncy and I headed up the hill to met the team who were accompanying a rather, pale shaky, bloodied patient. Thankfully the head wound was minor although the bruising was moderate. There were no neurological sequelae.

Injured patient Bas - unfortunately not sick enough to escape the dishes!

DOC trains two interested permanent staff as the medics for each year. They are supported from New Zealand by General Practitioners in Warkworth and a consultant at Middlemore Hospital. As a GP, I have been able to provide support to the medics in their role during my stint here. Aside from the two medevacs off the Island (neither of whom were DOC staff or vollies) the majority of the medical work has been minor and injury-related. For example, we have treated sprains, eye foreign bodies, infected cuts, allergic reactions and lacerations.

Generally though we have all kept very good health and with swine flu circling the globe, we have undoubtedly been in a very safe isolated spot. No one has had any type of viral illness or cough and the only sniffles are those caused by allergy to plants, dust or a bottle of bubbly, as one staff member discovered last week.

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