SAMHS specialist integral to Marion island evacuation


A skillset residing in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) was put to good use during long distance consultations between South Africa and Marion Island which saw the successful evacuation of an ill Marion 76 over-wintering team member.

The team member was taken aboard the South African polar vessel, SA Agulhas II, returning from another Antarctica voyage en route to Cape Town according to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF).

“The decision to evacuate the team member resulted from an independent medical report compiled by a medical specialist from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). Following long distance consultations with the team member and the team leader, the military medical specialist recommended urgent evacuation, in the interest of the member and the team as a whole. His conclusions were that first aid services on the island could not diagnose and appropriately treat the team member, who required urgent professional assistance,” according to a DEFF statement.

The sick team member’s partner was also evacuated on compassionate grounds with two more Marion 76 team members also boarding the polar vessel. One was in connection with disciplinary action and the other for a family emergency.

DEFF said the use of SA Agulhas II was the “most suitable” of a range of medical evacuation options.

“The most cost effective option was to divert SA Agulhas II, returning from Antarctica, via Marion Island.

“DEFF initially paid the full R2.8 million cost of the evacuation. There was clear notification to all institutions responsible for the team members being evacuated that DEFF requires costs to be shared among the parties, either through own budgets or insurance claims. DEFF has to date partially recouped costs incurred from one institution and is in discussions with others to recover the rest,” the statement said.

DEFF expeditions comprise specialists from SA Weather Service, SA National Space Agency, University of Pretoria, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Fort Hare, University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal and its own personnel.