Media release 17 December 2019 | As Middlemore Hospital, hosting the National Burns Service, continues to respond to the Whakaari/White Island eruption, the demands on our Burns Unit have been immense.
Currently there are eight White Island patients being treated in the Middlemore Hospital Burns Unit, several of whom are still very unwell with extensive burns.
This has put additional pressure on a number of our other clinical services. Counties Manukau Health is taking all necessary steps to ensure quality of care for all our patients, while treating those involved in this unparalleled tragedy.
John Cartwright, Incident Controller of the Incident Management Team, says the hospital’s surgical workload is being planned six weeks ahead.
“This is helping us prioritise the resources we need and we are asking regionally, nationally and internationally for additional support and supplies, including skin. This will mean we can run theatres sustainably and sensibly in terms of staff workload. However, this is going to impact our workload for the next two months,” says Mr Cartwright, who is also General Manager of the Emergency Department and Middlemore Central.
CM Health has postponed all elective surgeries and is reviewing urgent surgeries on a case by case basis. During the first week of the eruption, 30 theatre sessions and 96 operating sessions were cancelled, he says.
As host to the North Island Spinal and Rehabilitation Service, CM Health is now sending new cases to the South Island service in Christchurch.
“We are also working with other Auckland Metro DHBs to ease the pressure on other surgeries and our critical care at Middlemore Hospital. We can’t do it alone.”
Mr Cartwright says CM Health staff’s response across the board, whether administrative or clinical, has been fantastic.
“Some of them have cancelled their leave. They’ve really stepped up. ”
A huge outpouring of support both locally and internationally is also easing the response effort, he says.
“We’ve had one Australian specialist burns surgeon here over the weekend and another two have now arrived recently to give some respite to the staff who have been working extremely long hours. We continue to be contacted from many countries offering products, support and advice.”
Mr Cartwright says the local community should be mindful and exercise patience because the hospital is busy. But they can also be assured that it is managing.
“We are under pressure, but we are working with the region to manage that pressure.”
Patients who do not need urgent care are reminded to visit their local GP or an Accident and Emergency Clinic.