28 May 2013

Hundreds of emergency personnel to back Comrades runners

While 18 000 runners prepare for the 2013 Comrades Marathon, Netcare and Netcare 911 have been hard at work ensuring their medical needs will be fully met.


While 18 000 runners prepare for the 2013 Comrades Marathon, Netcare and Netcare 911 have been hard at work ensuring their medical needs will be fully met. 

“When last year’s Comrades ended, we began preparing for this year’s event. Having being involved with the event for 10 years, we have built up remarkable knowledge about the care of the athletes,” observes Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s General Manager: Emergency, Trauma, Transplant and Corporate Social Investment.

“Although the medical requirements for each Comrades differs depending on the weather and the runners participating, we are fully prepared to ensure that the participants are well taken care of throughout what has become known as the ultimate human race,” notes Toubkin.

Now in its 88th year, the Comrades Marathon, which will take place on 2 June, not only attracts participants from around the country but throughout the world. This requires a comprehensive medical team drawn from all over South Africa to meet the participants’ medical needs, reveals Toubkin.

Having mental and physical endurance  

The 86.96km up-run from coastal Durban to inland Pietermaritzburg taxes the physical and mental endurance of the runners to the utmost and requires extreme multi-agency co-ordination, according to Toubkin.

“Despite the many hours of training spent by participants ahead of Comrades, there are inevitably instances where some of the runners will require emergency and further medical assistance,” says Craig Grindell, Netcare 911’s Chief Operating Officer. “Netcare 911, Netcare, and the Comrades Marathon Association’s own medical team are fully prepared to assist runners in every eventuality, whether it is a life-threatening emergency or simply a strained muscle.”

According to Grindell, there will be a total of 150 nurses, emergency medical services staff, trauma staff and support staff providing medical services on race day. Over 330 physiotherapists will also be assisting runners along the route.

 Netcare 911 emergency personnel and Netcare nursing staff deployed at the eight medical stations, situated at certain water points on the race route, will provide care to the runners and might, where necessary, advise participants to pull out of the race.

Medical points during the race

According to Grindell the final decision – to continue the race or not – will always rest with the runners themselves. Another critical medical point will be set up at the entrance to the stadium in Pietermaritzburg.

Along the route Netcare 911 will have 16 ambulances, six Advanced Life Support paramedics in response vehicles, and four rapid response motorcycles to provide emergency medical support to the runners if called upon to do so. To ensure critically injured or ill patients can be taken to hospital immediately should it be required, an emergency helicopter has been dedicated to the event.

A full medical tent will be set up under Dr Jeremy Boulter, the medical director for the Comrades Marathon, at the finish in Pietermaritzburg. Dr Boulter’s medical team will be complemented by seven doctors from Netcare as well as 18 nurses from Netcare St Anne’s Hospital. Prof Efraim Kramer, Professor of Emergency Medicine from Witwatersrand University, will be lending his expertise to the intensive care section of the medical tent.

Three Joint Operations Centres (JOCs) will coordinate the activities of all emergency medical services for the day. One of the JOCs will be situated at the start, the other at the finish and the third offsite. Netcare 911 staff members will collaborate with other emergency services in these centres, but will also run its own command post on race day.

According to Toubkin, several Netcare hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal will act as receiving facilities for runners requiring hospital care.

Medical and trauma injuries during the race

Toubkin says that quite a few patients are usually admitted to hospital during and after the race for both medical and trauma injuries and she therefore advises participants to make sure that their medical details filled out on their registration forms are accurate. If you are an asthmatic or have any other condition that requires medication, do not forget to bring your medication, she adds.

“While it is the athletes and the spirit of the race that make it truly memorable, the organisation, logistics and careful management of all aspects involved play a role in making it a momentous event,” says Grindell. “

Being part of a group that is passionate about saving lives and enhancing the health and well-being of people, has inspired Netcare 911 and the receiving Netcare hospitals to assist in this challenging ultra marathon and provide participants with the kind of medical support they have come to expect from a true Comrades partner. All the athletes will need to do on the day is focus on running a good race. We wish them everything of the best for the race.”




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