Surgical and resuscitation health specialists from across the services gathered in Amberley, Queensland, in September for Exercise Abbeville – a first-of-its-kind medical exercise.

The three-day activity involved scenario-based simulations and presentations from Australian Defence Force (ADF) health specialists to deliver combat medical training in a tri-service environment. 

Overseeing the exercise, 3rd Health Support Battalion commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Chambers, said the exercise was designed to replicate the tri-service nature of combat health support.

“Interoperability is an important aspect in patient care. It would be the exception, rather than the norm, for treatment to be a single service effort,” Lieutenant Colonel Chambers said.

“This exercise was about being in a typical ADF environment, providing team skills training to our participants – most of whom are reservists – whose civilian medical training and individual skills we rely on.

“They typically don’t get a lot of exposure to this environment in their civilian roles.”

“It also gave me the opportunity to interact with other health professionals I don’t normally get to interact with, but whose work impacts mine, and mine impacts theirs."

Exercise participant, Able Seaman Dariush Ahmadyar, said the teamwork aspect of the simulated casualty scenarios helped him understand the context of his individual role within a patient’s care continuum.

“It was good to see how a patient gets treated from point of injury to the patient being transferred to a ship where we take over, and then to the point when the Air Force takes over with their aero-medical evacuation,” Able Seaman Ahmadyar said.

“It also gave me the opportunity to interact with other health professionals I don’t normally get to interact with, but whose work impacts mine, and mine impacts theirs.

“Even down to seeing how different teams set up their bays, and being able to offer input to help improve their workflow. It helps us all get on the same page.”

"With civilian medicine, you have more resources at your disposal that you don’t have access to in the field, so there was a strong focus on what you can reasonably achieve under operational pressures."

Abbeville also featured presentations from industry leaders in the fields of anaesthesia, orthopaedic surgery, vascular surgery, emergency treatment and intensive care.

Presenting on procedural specialist anaesthesia, Wing Commander Kylie Hall, of Headquarters Health Services Wing, said Abbeville familiarised ADF health professionals with equipment and personnel they would need to work within the field.

“It’s important to recognise there’s specific requirements and limitations in each service when treating a patient,” Wing Commander Hall said.

“The focus of my presentation was on aviation factors that are important for the patient – things such as lower air pressure, altered temperature, vibrations and noise – as well as factors that are important for health staff, such as aircraft capacity and take-off and landing characteristics.

“Often with civilian medicine, you have more resources at your disposal that you don’t have access to in the field, so there was a strong focus on what you can reasonably achieve under operational pressures.”