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Local MEMS Rescue team is world-class

A team of local rescue technicians employed by the provincial Metro Emergency Medical Services was named as being among the world’s best at the World Rescue Challenge 2018 South Africa last week.

The 20th instalment of the challenge was hosted by the South African Medical Rescue and World Rescue Organisations at Athlone Stadium from Monday 22 to Friday 26 October. The team, which consisted of seven intermediate and advanced life support paramedics who serve the entire Metropole, toughed out a gruelling trauma and vehicle extrication challenge. Although the team did not clinch top honours it walked away with invaluable experience that is sure to benefit the community at large.

“It was an honour to be part of such a prestigious event,” said EMS shift leader and team captain/incident commander Andrew Holmes. “We can only take the [additional] knowledge and skills acquired and apply it to daily operations.”

The other team members are Carlo Adonis (team manager), Darron Pick (technical 1), Carl Jacobs (technical 2), Elvin Stoffels (medic 1), Brinley Simons (medic 2) and Manfred Engelbrecht (safety).

Together they qualified to participate in the World Rescue Challenge (WRC) by taking second place in the National Rescue Challenge, which was held in Johannesburg last year. The three top teams in the country automatically qualify for the WRC.

For the team, the challenge consisted of two components, a trauma and vehicle extrication test. According to Holmes, the extrication challenge entailed simulated accidents in which passengers were presumably trapped inside the vehicles, either through their injuries or mechanical entrapment. The rescue team is then required to extricate the passengers by stabilising the scene as well as the vehicle. The medics are called on to enter the vehicle and to stabilise and treat the patient as far possible, followed by the technical pair, who proceed to use the mechanical jaws of life to free the patient from the wreck. The team captain or incident commander oversees the efforts while team members ensure safety on the scene.

According to Holmes, the challenge was “a big learning curve” for the team. He said the most difficult part was getting a vehicle to practise on.

“Other challenges included funds for apparel and finding the time to get together [and break] away from just the normal everyday work and responsibilities,” he reckoned.

“The highlight [however] was to participate in the challenge as local boys representing our service and country, with the support of our director and managers. We were approached by AJ Charnaud South Africa to try out its new rescue suit in the competition.”

Holmes explained that the one-of-a-kind suit is a two-piece item that is super lightweight and highly breathable, aiding stress reduction, and water vapour transferable.

The suit also has a pathogen-resistant liner, which protects the wearer against blood-borne pathogens.

The team was also supported by Rays Towing, which supplied the vehicle to practise on, B Safe Paramedical and Lipco Law, which assisted with kit bags and apparel to use at the event.

“Vehicle extrication is our main source of work as rescue technicians, and we are always looking at ways and means to improve our skills and provide a professional service to the communities we serve,” said Holmes. “The challenge allowed us to connect with other technicians and firefighters from other countries and share expertise and skills.

The team will take it up a notch and participate in the next World Rescue Challenge, which will be held in France next year.

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