Federally funded through the Australian Government, the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC), was established following Darwin’s response to the 2002 Bali bombings. Since its inception in 2004, the Darwin based NCCTRC has become a key component of the Australian Government’s Disaster and Emergency medical preparedness and response capability to natural and man-made incidents (or combinations) of local, national and international significance.
While initially responses concentrated on international natural and man-made events and disasters, more recently the focus has shifted to public health emergencies such as the measles epidemic in Samoa (October 2019-January 2020) as well as to domestic deployments including responses to the catastrophic bush fires in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) in January 2020, and most recently, Australia’s Covid-19 response.
Key elements of the NCCTRC’s capacity to quickly and effectively respond include the coordination and delivery of the Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) program achieved through teaching, exercising, research and the maintenance of a nationally agreed upon AUSMAT database. This is well complemented through the NCCTRC’s ability to maintain – equipment, innovation and relationships - a constant state of readiness by being Equipped, Prepared and Ready to respond swiftly on request by the Australian Government.
Training, exercise and education are core priorities for the NCCTRC with significant investment in stakeholder engagement, planning, preparedness and research. The AUSMAT initiative, involves multi-disciplinary health teams incorporating doctors, nurses, paramedics, fire fighters (logisticians) and allied health staff such as environmental health staff, radiographers and pharmacists, drawn from all states and territories.
AUSMAT is a capable and flexible asset configured to manage in complex health emergencies autonomously. AUSMAT members are selected from all States and Territories and are considered some of the very best clinicians and logisticians Australia has to offer. The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, the operational arm of AUSMAT on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health, train all in the Northern Territory.
All deployments are with the approval of the Australian Health Principled Protection Committee (AHPPC) and then formally tasked through the National Health Emergency Standing Committee (NHEMS). Responses have included many natural disasters within our region and infectious disease outbreaks that have overwhelmed local resources.
The year 2020 has been exceptional for AUSMAT and has demanded more from AUSMAT than its collective 11- year history. Since October 2019, AUSMAT has deployed 11 times in an assortment of team configurations utilising 342 members from the trained 750 Australia wide database. AUSMAT has responded to measles outbreaks, the catastrophic Australian bush fires, volcanic eruptions, established the first COVID-19 quarantine facilities, and provided medical support to Australian repatriation flights, cruise ship outbreaks, hospital outbreaks, international COVID-19 assessments and most recently to support the Residential Aged Care facilities impacted by COVID-19 in Victoria, Australia.
AUSMAT has multiple modes of capacity for alert and response to public health events.
AUSMAT’s multidisciplinary workforce ensures a comprehensive approach to safety, clinical governance, pragmatic implementation and team welfare. All AUSMAT teams include a leadership structure, comprising of Mission Lead, Logistics Lead, Nursing, and Medical leads. This model is what all members train too and has been highly successful in supporting dynamic clinical support in often dangerous or challenging environments.