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Ethos of RERN

The Rural Emergency Responder Network (RERN) is unique to South Australia.

This model of nominated, trained and equipped rural doctors should be extended to other rural areas in Australia where there are gaps between frontline services and retrievalists.

Current arrangements are ad hoc. In a 2012 survey, 53% of rural GP-anaesthetists stated that they had attended a prehospital call out in the previous 12 months.

However such responses occurred without formal call out criteria, without formal training in prehospital environment and in the absence of equipment or protocols.

Personally I believe that the prehospital environment is very different to that in a well-lit and equipped ED…and is best left to the experts (ambulance and retrievalists) not “enthusiastic amateurs”.

If you are in any doubt about the value of being adequately prepared, listen to this tale from Karel Habig on Cliff Reid’s podcast.

Nevertheless, critical illness does not respect geography and expert help may be a long time in arriving….hence the fact that 53% of rural GP-anaesthetists had been called out in preceding year. Indeed, these doctors had been called by ambulance or retrieval in lieu of their presence.

So rather than continue with ad hoc arrangements, would it not be better to ensure that those who respond are

  • available,
  • tasked appropriately,
  •  well equipped & trained,
  • and that cases are audited.

The UK has the British Association for Immediate Care Scheme (BASICS); New Zealand as Primary Response in Medical Emergencies (PRIME) – both smaller countries without the ‘tyranny of distance’. Come on – if the Poms and Kiwis can do it, surely we can in Oz?

I think that this paradigm could be extended throughout rural Australia – placing the clinician with the required skills to perform the necessary care in advance of the arrival of retrieval. Who knows, perhaps this would have made a difference in the Kerang rail disaster? Not to replace existing services – but to supplement them. There are obvious flow on benefits in case of State or National disaster planning…

You can read more about this proposal and see a video clip of my talk presented at SMACC2013

If pushed for time, there is a Pecha Kucha talk on the same topic from

See also the RERN video from SA Health – RERN scooped a SA Health award in 2013 for their model of care.

Click below to listen to Dr Doug Lynch interviewing Dr Rochelle Phipps at SMACC2013 – Rochelle is a Rural GP in NZ and participates in PRIME. She was also involved in the disaster response to the Christchurch earthquake.

See also this video on ‘RURAL DOCTOR UPDATE – DOCTORS BAG’ – with details of RERN kit


  1. […] I’m ready to buy the EZ-IO drill myself and access the (phenomenally expensive) needles through RERN/medSTAR. Better have a device that works in inexperienced hands than a device that works, on past […]

  2. […] RERN ACTION CARDS – click to download (NB RERN = Rural Emergency Responder Network) […]

  3. […] Australia already has the RERN (Rural Emergency Responder Network) system which is designed to support ambulance services when needed, prior to arrival of medSTAR […]

  4. […] have been quietly providing support to the South Australian Ambulance Service as part of the ‘Rural Emergency Responder Network’ (RERN). The clinicians are activated by pager. They have been equipped by SA Ambulance and SA Health with […]

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I am a Rural Doctor on Kangaroo Island, South Australia with interests in EM, Anaes & Trauma. I am an Ass/Prof in Aeromedical Retrieval with Charles Darwin University and hold senior specialist (retrieval) positions in NT and QLD Avid user & creator of #FOAMed; EMST & ATLS Director, Instruct & Direct on; faculty for Critically Ill Airway course and smaccAIRWAY workshops. Opinions expressed on these sites must not be used to make decisions about individual health related matters or clinical care as medical details vary from one case to another. Reader is responsible for checking information inc drug doses etc.

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