Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP has announced more capacity for the transfer of island patients after responding to a written question in the Scottish Parliament from SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Alasdair Allan.
Patient transport is of critical importance to island communities, and the islands MSP has continued to raise this issue with the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government, Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and others have taken a number of measures to ensure islanders who need hospital treatment as a result of coronavirus will be able to be safety transported off-island. These include:
• Procurement of Epishuttles, which are single patient isolation pods to ensure the safety of the patient and healthcare staff during transfer. Eight of these shuttles have been purchased, two of which have been received and are being tested over seven days for a go-live date on 3 April. A further two will be received on 17 April and another four by mid-May.
• Whilst these Epishuttles are being tested, SAS is working with the RAF who are currently providing cover for transfers off of the islands, using two puma helicopters based at Lossiemouth which can transfer patients without Epishuttles.
• Where a military fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter is requested, before Epishuttles are available, SAS will be able to deploy their expert retrieval team timeously to support Island colleagues prepare the patient for transfer and undertake the retrieval, meaning they will be on site ahead of the military air asset and have the patient ready for transfer when it arrives.
• Working with Loganair, who are providing two additional twin otter aircraft, one of which will be operational from Friday 3 April and the other within the next 14 days. These additional aircraft will be kitted out with Epishuttles and utilised for air retrieval off those islands with the appropriate landing facilities.
• Ensuring that patients on islands without any appropriate landing facilities for fixed wing aircraft will receive airlift by helicopter.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“I have had many constituents in touch with me concerned about air ambulance capacity and this is an issue I’ve continued to raise with the Scottish Government and others.
“This is a very welcome confirmation of extra capacity for patient transport at what is set to be a difficult time for island communities in the weeks and months ahead.
“With yesterday’s confirmation of the first cases in the Western Isles, it is now more important than ever to following the public health advice, to stay at home and avoid contact with others. Everyone needs to play their part in reducing the spread of this virus.”