Coronavirus - help from coastguard and military for patient transfer from Isles to mainland

The coastguard and military will be called upon to help with the transfer of patients from Barra with Coronavirus who require intensive care.

Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 3:40 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 3:42 pm
The image of Castlebay Community Hall which sparked concern about COVID-19 preparations in Barra.

That was the message issued in a Twitter video (https://twitter.com/NHSWI) yesterday (Saturday, March 21st) by NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson.

He said: ““If any patient on the Isle of Barra requires ventilation and support they will be transferred off-island by the military or coastguard to an appropriate mainland facility.”

This latest information appeared to be a strengthening of the contingency plans for the transfer of patients from Barra, as at a press conference on Coronavirus at Western Isles Hospital last Wednesday afternoon, the media were informed that Barra patients - where the disease had become life-threatening - would be transferred by the Scottish Ambulance Service overland to Benbecula, where they would then be transported to Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, or to the mainland to access intensive care facilities.

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The twitter video was created in response to misleading coverage of COVID-19 preparations on Isle of Barra highlighted in a national tabloid report.

There was also concern about the Island’s ability to cope with Coronavirus from Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, who posted on his twitter feed on Friday, along with an image of Castlebay Community Hall set up with camp beds: “Castlebay village hall in Barra and medics have prepared for #coronavirus - this is not far from 3rd world basic. No ventilators, not much oxygen either, no testing. Islands such as this could be badly hit. Message is don’t come on holiday please.”

Mr Jamieson clarified in the video: “To preserve and support the hospital services in St Brendan’s (hospital in Castlebay) we have created a community-based facility in Castlebay (Castlebay Community Hall).

“That is intended to be a facility where patients who have undergone testing or require first assessment can be supported and can remain there until such times as they can be returned to their homes.

“It was not intended to be and was not set up to be an emergency facility and it is not expected at all that it will provide any of the caring services that any patient would require that needs to go to hospital.”