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
“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
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
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
Medical points during
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
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
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
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.”