Suzuka background info: Medical centres

One of Sid Watkins’ most important legacies is the standardisation of medical centres for the F1 championship. These respond to a very strict set of regulations (available publicly on the FIA website).

The medical centre is designed to fill a number of roles:

  1. it is an obligatory way-station from an on track incident to the receiving hospital.
  2. it is where “routine” care is provided for F1 personnel during the race weekend
  3. it is the triage station in the event of a mass casualty incident.

In terms of function (1), this means having the personnel and equipment available for securing the airway under even the most difficult situations, for providing immediate care for life-threatening problems involving ventilation, and for establishing venous access and initial therapy for shock.

Med centres homologated for F1 have the capability of operating on a victim, both in terms of personnel, infrastructure, and equipment. This option has, of course, never been used. It is, as far as I am concerned, very useful to maintain. The regs were changed in order to encourage local Chief Medical Officers to staff their med centres with surgeons and anaesthetists with knowledge of “damage control surgery and resuscitation”. These are essentially the techniques for rapid and effective control of exsanguinating haemorrhage (honed in Iraq and Afghanistan), in order to allow transfer to the next echelon of care for a patient far too unstable for transport.

On the other hand, when injuries are severe but where the medical centre brings no “added value” (severe head trauma when other injuries are absent, ongoing CPR, where highly sophisticated equipment may be necessary), the centre is “visited” very briefly, before expeditious transport to the receiving hospital is started.

13 thoughts on “Suzuka background info: Medical centres

  1. Pingback: Suzuka Review - Bianchi's Crash - Journal

  2. Pingback: Suzuka Review - Bianchi's crash - Matt Meir

  3. Thanks once again Gary for your insightful articles. Perhaps you can touch on your understanding of the wider issue of the safety of the track ‘furniture’ – Martin Brundle the former racing driver and now journalist in the UK was always highlighting the danger of using these recovery vehicles and I recall a similar but, luckily, less serious incident 10-15 years ago.

  4. I was only recently allowed (offered?) to read the race control transcript of the fatal I was involved in (years later). You wouldn’t believe how helpful it was to SEE that you did the right things… and also to see the timeline. Your mind plays tricks when remembering the incident, especially in terms of the timescale of when things occurred. It was incredible to read how quickly I reported that medical were on the scene – in my mind it was an age after my original call. And yes, you do mull that stuff over in your mind.

    This type of material should be made available to all who attend a critical incident so they can see how it was handled and the part they played in it (unless it wouldn’t be helpful in their specific instance).

  5. It was good to see the extrication team on site so quickly – even though the reason for their attendance wasn’t known/made clear by the media at that point. Fingers crossed that Jules Bianci makes a full recovery.

      • While watching the race and seeing the Mercedes SUV passing the safety car right after it exited the pits sent a ripple of fear down my spine. There had been no notice by commentators as to a crash, yet I knew it would be bad news coming. I sat bolt upright thinking,”was that the medical car?”
        I fear the news will be bad, your comments on DAI upthread was chilling.
        Good to hear there’s an aid station right there. You have stated they are scattered all around the track.

  6. Great call by the on site EMT. Obtunded, unstable critically injured patient. Road evacuation is best option. The cramped confines of an air ambulance is no place to assess airway viability.

  7. Thanks, Gary.

    Firstly may I say that my thoughts and best wishes go out to Jules, his family and team mates.

    Secondly, I am thinking of the officials (marshals, track and medical) who attended the incident. Those of us who have managed critical incidents – especially when it is not part of your usual experience – know that this will stay with them for a long time. I hope they, too, are receiving the care and attention they need. The FIA generally has superb counselling, support and chaplaincy services on offer to competitors, marshals and anyone who may benefit from them – I hope they will be taken advantage of.

    I know there are lots of questions running through the minds of spectators and others but I hope they do wait until the incident has been analysed and reported on before jumping to any conclusions.

    • Great point! I know the marshals attending Ernie Viso’s accident at Magny Cours were really really shaken up. Check the video on youtube to see why. But for sure part of our role is the debriefing!

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