In December 2013, 19 Doctors attended the inaugural Pacific Critical Care Conference in the Marshall Islands. Director of Capstone Health Dr Matthew Atkins and employee Dr Stephen Massey from were fortunate enough to be among the participants.
The Marshall Islands are located in the Northern Pacific Ocean and are part of the larger island Group of Micronesia. They are a presidential republic with strong ties to the United States stemming from their geographically strategic role during WWII. Following the war they were chosen as the site for the USA’s largest nuclear tests conducted at Bikini Atoll, infamous for being the worst accidental radioactive contamination caused by the United States.
The conference took place on the Ailinglap Atoll, around 600km SE of Bikini, over the course of 10 days.
Travel to and from the atoll consisted of a series of flights via Naura followed by an overnight boat journey from the Capital Majuro. Accommodation was aboard 2 converted trawlers moored at a small purpose built jetty. The island is uninhabited aside from a local caretaker family and there is no infrastructure. As a result a purpose built solar powered ‘convention centre’ was built to house the academic program.
All attendees were required to present at the conference and material was dynamic and varied. Mornings and evenings were generally allocated to the academic program however this was flexible depending on weather conditions as dictated by delegates’ passion for wind and water based recreation. As the conference name suggests critical care in a remote environment was the focus of the program and topics ranging from case studies of remote rescues to the science and medicine of shark attacks were covered.
The Marshall Islands is in the middle of the world’s largest shark reservation and leisure time was spent taking in the untouched coral reefs free diving or SCUBA. The fickle swell conditions thwarted some hopes of chasing the perfect wave however the uncrowded conditions made for some memorable waves and plenty of coral cuts.
There are various options for travel to the Marshall Islands ranging from the civilised city of Majuro to the very, very remote. Those seeking adventure should seek medical advice about vaccines from their nearest TMA clinic. A comprehensive first aid kit is also advised a lesson many in the conference learnt the hard way