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Ravenshoe to Kowanyama

RFDS Lessons learned from 2 multi-casualty disaster responses in 16 months

Caren Harrison / Susan Markwell

Royal Flying Doctors Service


Caren Harrison is the Nurse Manager and a flight Nurse/midwife at the RFDS Cairns base. Caren has been a flight nurse for 8 years and has an avid interest in aeromedical best practice and major incident response in the isolated setting.


Susan Markwell is a flight Nurse/Midwife at the RFDS Cairns base. Over an impressive 28 year aeromedical career Susan has worked at numerous RFDS bases throughout Queensland. Susan enjoys the dynamic nature of flight nursing and the everyday challenges it presents


Within the space of 16 months, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Cairns crews were called upon to respond to 2 major multi-casualty incidents. The Ravenshoe explosion in June 2015 saw the evacuation of 19 burns/trauma patients and has been described as the 'biggest airlift of burns patients in Queensland's history'. RFDS was once again called upon to respond to a mass-casualty event at the small indigenous community of Kowanyama on the Western side of Cape York in October 2016. A vehicle ploughed into a house where mourners were gathering for a funeral killing one person instantly and seriously injuring 12. A total of 19 patients were evacuated over a 3 day period.


This presentation will seek to explore the similarities and lessons learned when dealing with isolated multi-casualty incidents; specifically examining resources and the importance of communication and coordination. Implications for future aeromedical practice when responding to remote multi-casualty events will also be identified.




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