Robert Ball and his highly-trained staff of 300 have one of the most important jobs at Yas Marina on Sunday. And yet, the most ideal scenario for him would be if they remain idle the whole week.
Ball is the chief executive officer of National Ambulance, and his organisation are providing ambulances and medical emergency back-up at the Yas Marina Circuit.
A joint venture between the Ministry of Interior and Aspen Medical, an Australian company, National Ambulance provides ambulance services to the whole of northern emirates and also has several private clients like Abu Dhabi Airport.
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They also help out various sporting events in Abu Dhabi, including Abu Dhabi yacht and sailing club, Abu Dhabi Harlequins and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where they have provided medical services for the past four years.
This is the second F1 that National Ambulance are involved with. They have been working with Yas Marina Circuit for close to two years now, and one of the responsibilities is to manage the medical centre throughout the year.
But while it is a skeletal staff of four to eight people manning the facility, and helping out with the various events that are part of Yas Marina’s calendar, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ramps up involvement to a different level altogether.
This week, they will have 300 people at the circuit at various times during the day, and 20 of their state-of-the-art customised Mercedes Sprinter van ambulances.
“Our staff really enjoys working here. This is a special week for us. We only provide up to the paramedic level, and we work closely with the FIA medical team, and the other teams from the Ministry of Interior like Abu Dhabi Search & Rescue,” said Ball, who came to Abu Dhabi from Sydney six years ago.
“We are still a very small part in the whole operation, but we do a major part of the medical logistics and planning for this. We make this place ready for everyone else to come and take over.
“This is the largest event that we do. During the race time, most of our people are here, and then, after the race is over, other staff support the du Arena concerts.
“We also have a different logistics team that takes over at night. They will come and re-stock everything, which is again a very important function that we look after.”
Given the location of the race and the influx of people perhaps not so accustomed to the UAE climate, it’s unsurprising the most common injuries and illnesses are heat- related.
“While we have a low number of people presenting to the clinic, one of the most common things we have to deal with is when someone gets too hot,” added Ball.
“There are so many kitchens and mechanics, so we get a small number of kitchen-related injuries like someone cutting his fingers and people getting hurt by tools.
“We are well equipped and trained to take care of. So, if it is dehydration, we can give them the fluids and let him go when we feel the person is not in any danger. If it’s a minor injury we can treat the patient or if required transport to the hospital that is close by.
“Obviously, everyone wants an event to be injury free, however if anyone does get hurt, or has an illness, you cannot get better medical care than at this track.
“I can sleep very well at night because how well each of our people are trained. So, yes, we hope nothing happens throughout the week that requires our presence, but if something does, I can reassure everyone that we are well prepared to take care of any situation.”