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Remote-site paramedics play vital role during Beetaloo Gas Exploration project

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Paramedic standing with arms outstretched in a remote location in the NT

When you’re exploring for gas in some of the most remote areas in the Northern Territory – and the nearest hospital is more than three hours away – having a remote-site paramedic like Tim Newman is essential.

The Aspen Medical paramedic is currently contracted to Origin Energy to provide primary response in case of an emergency, as Origin teams conduct gas exploration activities in the Beetaloo Basin.

The sparsely populated and remote Beetaloo basin is approximately 600km south-east of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The closest hospital, located in Katherine, is about a three-hour drive away.

“The biggest challenge in working in remote areas is the distances from hospitals and the lack of medical retrieval resources,” Tim said.

“Air ambulance services help support health emergencies in remote locations but not really road ambulance – it can be a bit daunting knowing you’re the only medical professional within a 1,000km radius.

“If a health emergency ever occurs at a remote work site, such as the ones Origin manage in the Beetaloo, then clear and efficient lines of communication and teamwork across myself, the Origin representative and the air ambulance operator are crucial in making decisions that are in the best interests of workers and the public.”

As an experienced emergency service professional of more than 30 years Tim has been involved in the provision of frontline medical and rescue services in Australia and New Zealand for both state providers and private companies.

Tim said as much as he enjoyed the challenge and individual responsibility of working in the remote Beetaloo basin, he couldn’t deliver the quality of healthcare service without the constant support of Aspen Medical’s line management and the logistics team.

Tim said a benefit from working in a place like the Beetaloo was that you forged good relationships with like-minded workers who were attracted to the idea of living and working in remote areas.

“Being based at the historic Daly Waters Pub has been an enjoyable experience; I’m a bit of a World War II enthusiast and there is no shortage of war history in the area as Daly Waters played a significant part in the protection of the Northern Australian coastline during the War,” Tim said.

“I’m not so keen on the flies though, I think I’ve inadvertently swallowed about six of them since I arrived here – and I’m sure it’s the flies, not the pub food, that’s made me the heaviest I’ve ever been.” 

Tim’s presence out in the Beetaloo recently proved fortunate for an elderly man who suffered a fall while attending the Daly Waters Hi-Way Inn and broke his leg and ribs.

By happenstance, Tim was working at an Origin exploration site nearby and was able to assist the man and stabilise the injury before he was transported to hospital.

“At one point, we pulled up in front of the Mataranka Police Station to administer some medication, the elderly patient recognised it as a station he’d been positioned at as a mounted policeman some 35 years ago – just one of the many incredible stories you encounter out here.”

Remote paramedics typically practice with very limited resources and as a result, they are experts at quickly assessing, prioritising, and establishing control in unpredictable environments in order to reduce risks and provide quality patient care.

Origin Energy Upstream Growth General Manager Chris White said having remote site paramedics to manage medical issues on exploration and development programs was essential, particularly in remote Northern Territory locations.

“Our gas exploration activities in the Beetaloo give rise to a range of health and safety risks to our employees and contractors – and these risks are increased when working in remote areas,” Mr White said.

“Safety remains our highest priority. It is central to our duty of care – to our people, our customers and the communities in which we operate.

“Having an on-site paramedic in the Beetaloo provides a range of benefits including providing quick first aid response, providing comprehensive stabilisation and management to any injured person and reducing accident risk by working with the Health and Safety Team.”