LIVES LOST: Dr Simon Tebbutt said remote country stretches  and trucks increase the risk of fatalities for people involved in car accidents on the Southern Downs.
LIVES LOST: Dr Simon Tebbutt said remote country stretches and trucks increase the risk of fatalities for people involved in car accidents on the Southern Downs. Sonja Koremans

The doctor you don't want to meet

NO ONE wants Dr Simon Tebbutt at the end of their hospital bed after a car accident.

Whether the emergency specialist at Warwick Hospital is rushing to tend a victim roadside or awaiting their arrival by ambulance, Dr Tebbutt knows it's possibly going to be that patient's worst day of their life.

Dr Tebbutt spoke with Warwick Daily News to highlight the danger car accidents on regional roads pose to a person's life and quality of life in the aftermath of horrific injuries.

Medical staff shortages, low blood supplies and no intensive care unit or full-time surgeon at Warwick Hospital can stack the odds against anyone injured in a major crash in the area, Dr Tebbutt said.

"We don't see a lot of road trauma at this hospital but when we do see it, it can be the worst of the worst," he said.

Remote country roads, trucks travelling through the region, 100km zones and the notorious Eight Mile intersection north of Warwick keep hospital staff on high alert, particularly during the festive season when a hike in drink and drug driving is thrown into the mix.

"We run through simulation training to prepare staff for car accidents because when that call comes through from the ambulance, there may only be a few minutes' notice for everyone to descend on the patient.

"Our whole attention needs to be on that person for a couple of hours to stabilise them and get them to the next hospital," Dr Tebbutt said.

If it's a major trauma, the patient will end up in Toowoomba or Brisbane, where they can be operated on, but there is a lot to be done beforehand at the local hospital.

"The emergency department here does the life-saving process; the IV, breathing tubes, stabilising the pelvis, straightening out fractures and administering blood," Dr Tebbutt said.

"Everyone is wrung out after the process and if the person dies or is critically injured, we all feel it.

"It can be very emotional thinking about the patient, their family and friends. It's not uncommon for medical staff new to road trauma to be in tears afterwards."

Dr Tebbutt said elderly people were often at greater risk of long-term health issues or death from injuries that have occurred in a car smash.

"A young healthy person can hide the severity of their illness very well because their heart and lungs can compensate but once you hit 65, the ability to cope with what may be a fairly minor road injury can be life-threatening."

Necks and spines snap more easily as people age, he said.

New Year's Day is typically one of the busiest periods in Queensland hospitals for road trauma, but Dr Tebbutt said the message to save lives was simple.

"If you are driving, don't drink any alcohol whatsoever, not even one drink; if you are going on a long trip ensure you are not fatigued and turn your phone off if you are going to be distracted by calls and messages," Dr Tebbutt said.

"That will go a long way to ensuring you never have to meet us here in the emergency department."

Warwick doctors and the Police and Ambulance Service have thrown their support behind the Daily News' holiday road safety campaign, Give... Don't Grieve where we remind motorists what this time of year is supposed to be about - giving, not grieving.

Keep an eye out for more of our road safety coverage.



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