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Logistic support provided to Australian disaster medical assistance teams: results of a national survey of team members

Author(s): Peter Aitken | Peter Leggat | Hazel Harley | Richard Speare | Muriel Leclercq

Journal: Emerging Health Threats Journal
ISSN 1752-8550

Volume: 5;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: disaster | medical assistance | Australia | Southeast Asia | logistics | communication | disaster medical assistance teams

It is likely that calls for disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs) continue in response to international disasters. As part of a national survey, the present study was designed to evaluate the Australian DMAT experience and the need for logistic support.Data were collected via an anonymous mailed survey distributed via State and Territory representatives on the Australian Health Protection Committee, who identified team members associated with Australian DMAT deployments from the 2004 Asian Tsunami disaster.The response rate for this survey was 50% (59/118). Most of the personnel had deployed to the South East Asian Tsunami affected areas. The DMAT members had significant clinical and international experience. There was unanimous support for dedicated logistic support with 80% (47/59) strongly agreeing. Only one respondent (2%) disagreed with teams being self sufficient for a minimum of 72 hours. Most felt that transport around the site was not a problem (59%; 35/59), however, 34% (20/59) felt that transport to the site itself was problematic. Only 37% (22/59) felt that pre-deployment information was accurate. Communication with local health providers and other agencies was felt to be adequate by 53% (31/59) and 47% (28/59) respectively, while only 28% (17/59) felt that documentation methods were easy to use and reliable. Less than half (47%; 28/59) felt that equipment could be moved easily between areas by team members and 37% (22/59) that packaging enabled materials to be found easily. The maximum safe container weight was felt to be between 20 and 40 kg by 58% (34/59).This study emphasises the importance of dedicated logistic support for DMAT and the need for teams to be self sufficient for a minimum period of 72 hours. There is a need for accurate pre deployment information to guide resource prioritisation with clearly labelled pre packaging to assist access on site. Container weights should be restricted to between 20 and 40 kg, which would assist transport around the site, while transport to the site was seen as problematic. There was also support for training of all team members in use of basic equipment such as communications equipment, tents and shelters and water purification systems.
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