RAAF medics ready to fly to Ukraine
A military medical team on standby in the Netherlands is hoping for the best but planning for the worst when unarmed Australian and Dutch police investigate the MH17 crash site.
A seven-person RAAF aero-medical evacuation (AME) team is stationed at Eindhoven airbase ready to fly to eastern Ukraine at a moment’s notice if a member of the international mission is injured.
The team, led by 34-year-old Dr Jo Darby from Brisbane, includes another doctor, a specialist anaesthetist, two nurses and two medical assistants.
“I really hope nothing happens and we don’t have to use our resources and our intensive team,” Dr Darby told reporters on the tarmac at Eindhoven.
“But if we do need it, then that’s what we are here for. It’s an unknown in terms of what our tasking will be.”
Dr Darby said when planning a potential medical evacuation “you always think about the worst case scenario and have a contingency plan in place”.
Dutch police heading up the international probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believe the situation around the crash site remains perilous despite a small team managing to access the scene.
There’s been intense fighting in recent days between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants.
The Ukrainian parliament on Thursday ratified a deal that authorises Australia and the Netherlands to send in armed personnel to help secure the area if necessary.
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has previously stated an international military mission is “unrealistic”.
The RAAF medical team stationed in the Netherlands would be pleased if the most serious injury it deals with is a broken bone or rolled ankle.
They arrived at Eindhoven on Tuesday and spent Thursday practising with the Dutch team they’ll be working side-by-side with if there is need for any evacuations.
The Dutch don’t have C-17s so are getting used to working on the Australian aircraft.
One C-17 can move four ICU patients and up to 36 patients on stretchers depending on their injuries.
Dr Darby says the Boeing Globemasters are the Rolls Royce of transporters when it comes to doing AMEs – especially when moving seriously injured casualties.
Liquid oxygen is available on a continuous supply so medics don’t have to worry about changing cylinders. Medical machines can be plugged straight into power so batteries aren’t needed.
The Australian and Dutch have previously worked together in Afghanistan and Dr Darby says the teams in Eindhoven are melding perfectly as they are equally matched in terms of expertise.