St Mary’s Hospital has started transferring COVID patients to mainland hospitals as the pressure continues to mount on the Island’s NHS, with 69 Islanders admitted to hospital in the past 7 days.
Island Echo understands 2 COVID-positive Islanders were airlifted to Southampton General Hospital at the weekend. The critical care patients were both transferred by helicopter on Sunday afternoon.
The first transfer took place at around 14:15 with the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance called in to facilitate the transfer, thought to be the first COVID patient transfer of the pandemic. The Augusta Westland AW169, which spent around 2 hours on the helipad, is much bigger than the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance giving medical staff greater space inside the helicopter.
The second transfer took place at around 18:30 with the Coastguard Rescue Helicopter from Lee-on-Solent called upon to airlift the second critically ill patient from the helipad at St Mary’s.
Despite conducting a training exercise with the military and having well-publicised plans in place for COVID-safe transfers from Seaclose Park, on this occasion Chinook helicopters were not utilised. It is currently unclear as to why.
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust has refused to comment on whether COVID patients are now being transferred off Island, even though their very own Medical Director, Dr Stephen Parker, was called in to work on Sunday to ‘facilitate [the] transfer of COVID positive patients off Island’.
A spokesperson for Isle of Wight NHS Trust said:
“We have tried and tested processes in place for transferring patients to mainland hospitals, these transfers happen regularly and are part of our business as usual being a small hospital on an island.”
Island Echo asked the NHS Trust to confirm how many COVID patients had been transferred to the mainland, why the decision was taken and why the Military were not called upon as per previous training for such scenarios.
In the last 7 days a total of 69 people have been admitted to hospital, according to latest Government figures. It is not known how many are on ventilators currently but as of 12th January this number was 11.