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NSF considers alternatives for treating ill South Pole worker

ARLINGTON, Va.--National Science Foundation (NSF) officials are considering several alternatives to care for and treat a worker at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), which coordinates all U.S. scientific research and logistics support on the southernmost continent.

Officials of NSF's Office of Polar Programs have been consulting with the South Pole station's physician and medical specialists in the United States via a telemedicine link to provide the necessary care. But concern that the individual's condition could possibly worsen has prompted NSF to develop contingency plans to evacuate the patient to the United States, where more advanced medical facilities are available.

The patient, an employee of Raytheon Polar Services Co. (RPSC), of Centennial, Colo., NSF's Antarctic logistics contractor, has requested anonymity. NSF is honoring that request. The specifics of the patient's condition are being kept confidential. The illness is not contagious and no one else at the station is at risk.

"The patient remains in stable condition and is able to move about," said Will Silva, South Pole Station physician, of the USAP. "We continue to monitor his condition to decide whether an evacuation is in the patient's best interest."

In preparation for a medical flight, two Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd. of Alberta, Canada, under contract to RPSC in support of the USAP, departed from Canada earlier this week for Punta Arenas, Chile. There, they will await a decision to continue on to the Pole and return the patient to the United States for care.

If a flight becomes necessary, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will allow the planes to land at Rothera, its station on the Antarctic Peninsula, to await favorable weather for one of them to fly to the Pole. BAS also allowed its facilities at Rothera to be used in April of 2001, when South Pole Physician Ronald Shemensk
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-7761
National Science Foundation
11-Sep-2003


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