Chinook helicopters may need to be used to evacuate COVID-19 patients from St Mary’s Hospital to other hospitals around the country amid soaring cases and hospitalisations, NHS bosses are warning.
Speaking to The Guardian about the situation, Stephen Parker, Medical Director of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said that he has been planning ‘unthinkable options’ following a four-fold increase in COVID patients being treated at St Mary’s since Christmas.
At the start of the pandemic, a training exercise was carried out at Seaclose Park in Newport which saw the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service come together with the Military to practice a patient transfer. Now it is a possibility that within days transfers could take place for real.
Mr Parker told The Guardian:
“These are unprecedented times for the NHS and they are unprecedented times for the island. I think it really is important to realise that we are one of the smallest hospitals in the country; we are challenged about moving patients and we could be overwhelmed.
“If the NHS is going to be overwhelmed, it is going to be the next two to four weeks. And that’s why it is so scary having gone from what was a relatively stable position in the autumn”.
Why Seaclose Park?
For many years, Seaclose was the main helicopter landing site for St Mary’s Hospital until a dedicated helipad was built at the hospital site, so procedures are well-established. The landing site is fairly close to the hospital with good access.