Containerised medicine

A shipping container modified to house a complete medical and surgical facility successfully completed its first return trip to Antarctica aboard the Vasiliy Golovnin last February.

The ‘containerised medical facility’ was designed by the AAD’s Polar Medicine Unit and engineers, to allow doctors to deal with life- and limb-threatening medical and surgical emergencies on board ship. Injuries most commonly seen on ships include fractures and crush injuries to limbs.

The facility contains all the equipment needed to provide the AAD’s high standard of medical care in the remote Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments. This includes a filtered water supply, uninterruptible power supply, anti-static flooring, air filtration, X-ray machine, an adjustable trolley-cum-operating table and an alarmed pharmacy fridge to keep drugs at a constant temperature. The container itself is also alarmed for fire and major temperature changes.

As most ships don’t cater to our medical requirements, the containerised medical facility will increase the AAD’s flexibility in ship-based operations. As the AAD moves towards more flexible science delivery in deep field, similar containerised modules could provide the medical support needed.

Jeff Ayton, Chief Medical Officer, Polar Medicine Unit, AAD