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Media Releases | St John Ambulance
Events: Team Finke provides critical support at ultimate desert race
  17 Jul 2023

The team from St John NT has wrapped up their coverage of another adrenaline-charged year at the Tatts Finke Desert Race.

With a contingent of more than 50 paramedics, volunteers, paramedicine students and support staff, this is the 31st year that St John NT have provided the medical and retrieval support for both participants and spectators at the race.

The work for the team from St John NT began almost as soon as last year’s winner had crossed the line. Months of planning, logistics and coordination go into the preparations of what Alice Springs Manager of Operations and Commander of the event Matt Cowie has labelled ‘’a logistically challenging beast of an event”.

“Finke is a highly competitive and equally high-risk event, with some of these vehicles and bikes travelling in excess of 200km per hour along extremely challenging and unforgiving terrain,” Matt said.  “We know we will get patients, the number and severity are something we won’t know until the dust settles, so we must plan for this event as a potential Mass Casualty Incident until proven otherwise.”

With the closest hospital hundreds of kilometers away, it is a mammoth combined effort, with Matt and his team, including paramedic Tori Passarin who was responsible for ambulance event logistics working with event organisers, NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services and the Alice Springs Hospital to provide critical support in the planning and implementation of health and safety.

Along with the people power, 4WD ambulances were stationed at the start and finish as well as all medical check points. Three more were on the move following the racing pack, supported by three roving helicopters and two road ambulances on standby to receive the incoming.

This year the team treated more than 50 people with 28 people transported to hospital.

“Fractured clavicles, arms and femurs are some of the major injuries we treat, along with abdominal trauma, the occasional flail chest and plenty of concussions,” Matt said. “Basically, if it can get broken, you’ll probably see it happen at Finke.”

Finke Desert Race President Antony Yoffa said the safety of participants and spectators was paramount and St John NT was critical to ensuring the event was as safe as possible.

“We could not run Australia’s Ultimate Desert Race without the first-class standard of care from St John NT,” Antony said.

“Over the past 30 years they have become an integral part of the event from the planning process leading up to the event, to the gold standard care and support they provide at the event.”

Despite the extreme and challenging conditions, the iconic event remains a firm favourite amongst staff and volunteers who travel from Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek to join the team in Alice Springs to provide critical support for the weekend of adrenaline-fueled racing.

With the event growing bigger, and the drivers and riders pushing the limits each year, the team from St John NT are already formulating a ‘war game’ for next year’s event, to ensure the safety of spectators and competitors.

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