Maritime medicine in the Middle East

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Holly Murphy (author), ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Newcastle (F06)

Medical Officer Lieutenant Holly Murphy stands in the sickbay of HMAS Newcastle whilst on Operation Manitou in the Middle East region. (photo: ABIS Nicolas Gonzalez)
Medical Officer Lieutenant Holly Murphy stands in the sickbay of HMAS Newcastle whilst on Operation Manitou in the Middle East region.

With a ship’s company of 230, HMAS Newcastle’s small medical team of three health care professionals has been kept busy while recently deployed in the Middle East.

Petty Officer Ryan Dennis, the ship’s Clinical Manager, said the sick bay runs much like a small rural hospital.

“If unwell, members present to see the medics during sick parade each day and are referred on to the Doctor if needed,” he said.

“Members can also book appointments to discuss general health concerns, for example, skin checks.”

According to Lieutenant Holly Murphy, the ship’s Medical Officer, the deployment has kept the team busy with a wide range of clinical work from primary care to education.

“Although the crew is generally fit and well, coughs, colds and minor bumps and bruises are also the unfortunate by-product of working and living in confined conditions on a moving platform,” she said.

“One of the more interesting tasks is preparing health briefs for the crew for each port visit.

“This allows the team to research travel medicine and exotic diseases that are not found in Australia such as Chikungunya and the Bubonic plague.”

Given the often remote location of the ship, the medical team is always on call, and always ready, to evacuate a patient via helicopter if the need arises.

The team is also constantly studying in order to keep their skills and knowledge current.

“Deploying has given me the opportunity to study for my General Practice exams during my downtime,” Lieutenant Murphy said.

“It’s something that many Doctors need to work part-time at to fit into their life.”

Able Seaman Chelsea Deenen, an advanced medical assistant, rounds out Newcastle’s team.