Realistic challenge

Ready to go: Morwell paramedic Kerryn Wratt has completed a three day training course preparing him for future overseas disaster zone deployment.  photograph laura ferguson
Ready to go: Morwell paramedic Kerryn Wratt has completed a three day training course preparing him for future overseas disaster zone deployment. photograph laura ferguson
Paramedic Kerryn Wratt

Paramedic Kerryn Wratt

ON a recent day on the job local paramedic Kerryn Wratt was ambushed, dragged from his vehicle by gun-toting rebels, had a black bag put over his head and was threatened with death.

Not your ordinary day at work in anyone's book, but the incident - one designed to simulate the reality of possibilities in overseas emergencies - failed to deter Kerryn from pursuing future deployment.

The Morwell-based MICA paramedic chose to expand his professional horizons as one of a dozen Ambulance Victoria paramedics over the past two years to complete the three-day Australian Medical Assistance Teams course.

Speaking with The Express, Kerryn said the training, which covered international humanitarian aid, logistics of deployment, security and needs assessments and the communications capacities of overseas medical teams, was "a great experience".

"It was the most realistic and intensive training I have ever done... but if you are in a situation where you are taken hostage then its all about looking after your security and negotiating with people who might mean you harm and not recognise you as a government official from another country, or who might use it to their advantage," he said.

A simulated exercise requiring Kerryn and colleagues to drive in convoy, design a medical camp in an austere environment using specific deployment equipment, and pass through military checkpoints in hostile situations, culminated in their mock ambush.

Though he was at least partly expecting the attack, Kerryn said the realistic nature of it - "as much as it could be in urban Australia" - meant it was still challenging, "and I enjoy a challenge".

"They do tell you that, if at any point you are uncomfortable and change your mind, that's fine," he said.

He added the experience had only strengthened his interest in overseas disaster zones.

The course is run in conjunction with the Victorian Department of Health and the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, based in Darwin.

AV manager ambulance emergency management and air ambulance Paul Holman said the service had a "history of sending paramedics overseas to help in disasters".

'In recent years Ambulance Victoria paramedics have helped out in Samoa after the 2009 earthquake and Tsunami, and earthquakes in Pakistan in 2010 and Christchurch in 2011," he said.

Conceding it sounded "funny that I am hopeful to be one of them," Kerryn said now he felt prepared and was keen "to contribute anyway I can".

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