Refugee on Nauru medically evacuated to Australia after serious motor accident

A 36-year-old male refugee on Nauru who sustained multiple major trauma following a serious motor vehicle accident has been medically evacuated to Australia.

The man was involved in the accident on Tuesday evening.

A statement from the Nauru Coronavirus Taskforce said the man sustained multiple major trauma injuries.

Whilst he was being stabilised in the immediate term by local doctors and nurses, his condition was life threatening.

He remained in need of multiple surgical and medical specialist interventions not available in Nauru. 

Arrangements were made by Australia’s Department of Home Affairs to urgently evacuate him by air ambulance for overseas specialist medical treatment last night.

The Nauru Coronavirus Taskforce has assured the people of Nauru, that in facilitating this medical evacuation, that multiple measures were taken to maintain Nauru COVID free.

“The medical evacuation of the refugee injured in a motor vehicle accident on Tuesday evening, took place last night (Friday 12th February). We are pleased to hear that he has been received in a major hospital that has trauma facilities and multiple specialities able to provide the care he needs. Our prayers are with him as he receives treatment, and we wish him all the best for his recovery from this dreadful accident.”

Whilst the Taskforce will work with Government Departments to do what is possible to help any individual access the medical care they need, all in Nauru can be assured that the utmost priority for the Taskforce and the Government is to keep our people safe from COVID.

The many measures to protect Nauru from COVID-19 have been working for over a year.

Nauru remains one of the few countries in the world who are COVID-free.

The Taskforce appreciates the concerns raised about the risk, the entry of the medical evacuation team posed to Nauru, but reassures that this medical evacuation was planned and executed in a way that maintained our protection from COVID-19.

The Taskforce also acknowledges the challenges many Nauruans have had with accessing overseas specialist medical treatment as a consequence of travel restrictions imposed by Australia and other countries, and appreciates why there is a question over why this medical evacuation was able to be organised when referrals for Nauruans cannot.

Australia has an ongoing commitment to ensure the provision of independent medical care for refugees and asylum seekers hosted in Nauru, and to ensure that Nauru’s Health system is not overburdened by these types of situations. Australia acted quickly to respond to this particular case.

The Taskforce and Government continue to engage with Australia on access for Nauruans to specialist medical treatment not available in Nauru and the Health Department is actively exploring options with several other countries.

This medical evacuation involved a flight crew and a medical retrieval team totalling six persons who flew in on a specialist air ambulance from the Gold Coast in Australia.

All of the incoming crew and medical team, for the last two weeks or longer, had only been in safe areas of Australia where there has been no community transmission of coronavirus for many months.

Importantly, all crew had a PCR test for COVID-19 just before boarding the flight to Nauru and all tested negative to the virus.

Despite the fact that the crew were all well, tested negative and had not been exposed to virus, further procedural precautions were put in place to add multiple layers of protection for Nauru.

At the airport, the transit and refuelling operation was undertaken with the strict no-contact procedures, that are now used as standard with Nauru Airlines, meaning none of our airport, civil aviation, airline or ground handlers had any contact with the incoming crew and all used facemasks and personal protection measures throughout.

From the airport to the hospital and back, a “quarantine corridor” was created with police escort of the dedicated vehicles, with drivers separated from the medical team and everyone using personal protective equipment.

This “quarantine corridor” was maintained at the Hospital so that the medical team moved along a supervised and controlled path from the ambulance to the patient and back.

This was the reason part of the Emergency Department was shut down in advance of the arrival and until after the area used had been disinfected and cleaned down after their departure.

To further protect the Nauruan public, none of the Nauru Health Department doctors, nurses or staff were used for the actual transfer of the patient. Whilst they had cared for and prepared the patient, they moved back and kept a good distance away when the medical evacuation team arrived.

The same “quarantine corridor” and distance from any RON Hospital and local staff was maintained as the medical evacuation team took the patient out of the Hospital and back to the ambulance and to the aircraft.

This "quarantine corridor" means that the movement of the medical evacuation team was effectively the same as all other arriving passengers and crew being managed in our usual Hotel Quarantine stations, except this was a temporary mobile quarantine space that enabled them to remain in quarantine during their entire movement. 

The "quarantine corridor” ensured there was no contact with the public or our RON Hospital staff or patients. There was no direct physical involvement by any RON Hospital workers, Health Department officials, Hospital security, Nauru Police or any local workers, in the pick-up and transfer of the patient by the Retrieval Team. All of these local workers kept a safe distance away and everyone used masks, goggles and other personal protective equipment.

Any patients, visitors or public at the RON Hospital at the time, were also kept well separated and a safe distance from the medical evacuation team.

A small number of IHMS medics and doctors assisted the medical evacuation team in a controlled environment with Health Department supervision ensuring all followed the procedures.

This was a carefully planned medical evacuation undertaken by trained and experienced health professionals. The Taskforce is more than happy that the procedures were strictly adhered to and the Taskforce has declared that this does NOT constitute a ‘COVID-19 contact or exposure event’. Nonetheless, the IHMS health professionals involved remain at the RPC and do not provide care or services to the general public in Nauru.

The medical evacuation was a well executed operation where infection control measures and the use of personal protective equipment was effectively maintained in a controlled and secure environment.

The multiple layers of protection and many procedures put into place for this life-saving evacuation, were in reality, far more than medically indicated.

However the Taskforce and everyone involved were happy to go way beyond, in doing much more than necessary, to address any risk to the people of Nauru in undertaking this evacuation.

Given the many measures put in place to manage the evacuation, the Nauru COVID-19 Taskforce is happy to reassure the public that Nauru’s “Capture & Contain” strategy continues to work.

Nauru remains protected.

The operation involved many Government Departments and several other agencies and organisations, and the Taskforce appreciates the efforts undertaken by all to deliver a safe outcome for Nauru.

The Taskforce also thanked the public for their cooperation and understanding in keeping their distance and helping enable this to be a smooth operation.


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