AUSTRALIAN doctors must not “rubber stamp” Kokoda Track trekkers when assessing their health before the adventure, an emergency health expert said.
Brad Bailey, who runs medical evacuation service Medevac Pacific Services in Port Moresby, has repeatedly called for greater scrutiny of trekkers’ health.
Mr Bailey, who has been involved in medical air rescue since 1989, said with 6,000 people taking on the track every year, more and more trekkers were ending up injured, sick or dead.
“Health testing has to be more rigorous before any trekker is allowed to walk the track,” he said.
“Doctors just can’t go rubber-stamping people for the adventure. It’s got to be serious; lives are at risk.
“There is nothing wrong with booking in for a stress test.”
Mr Bailey said there had been a sudden rise in exhaustion and dehydration.
“They’re not ingesting enough fluids,” he said of the trekkers. “It’s a whole culmination of things.
“Some of them get off the plane, fly into Kokoda and it’s like being dumped in a sauna for eight days.
“It used to be knee joints and sprained ankles, but now there is food poisoning, amoebic dysentery. It’s getting worse every year and trekkers must be medically fit to walk.”
Mr Bailey was responding to news that Paul Bradfield, a Woolworths manager from Townsville, had become the third Australian to die on the track this year.
The 38-year-old father of four died on Sunday while undertaking the trek to raise funds for cancer charity Camp Quality, after his young daughter had successfully battled leukaemia.
Mr Bailey said nothing could prepare Australians for the challenge.
“Training on flat Melbourne or Sydney ground with a 30kg bag is nothing compared to Kokoda’s conditions.
“The humidity is running in the 90s, the temperature can get up to 35 degrees in the day and then during the night drop down to 18 degrees,” he said. – AAP