A coastguard helicopter has been used to transfer a Covid-19 patient from the Isle of Wight to relieve pressure on the local hospital’s “stretched” intensive care unit.
A medical team from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) flew to St Mary’s Hospital in Newport to meet the ventilated patient on Sunday, and transferred them to the search and rescue AW189 helicopter based at Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire.
The helicopter then flew the patient and medics to University Hospital Southampton.
It is understood that a second patient was later also transferred to the mainland but the HIOWAA was not involved.
Stephen Parker, medical director of Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said last week that it could be forced to resort to contingency plans to use a military Chinook helicopter to evacuate patients from the island.
In April 2020, a test flight was carried out using a 27 Squadron Royal Air Force Chinook to land close to St Mary’s Hospital to transfer patients to the mainland.
An HIOWAA spokesman said: “On Sunday 17 January, members of our critical care teams assisted in the transfer of a ventilated Covid-19 positive patient from St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight, to University Hospital Southampton (UHS) to relieve pressure in the hospital’s heavily stretched intensive care unit.
“The transfer was done in close collaboration with the UK Search and Rescue (UKSAR) AW189 Helicopter, based at Lee-on-the-Solent.
“As Covid-19 infections on the island have continued to rise, doctors, specialist paramedics and pilots who make up our critical care teams stepped in to support their NHS colleagues.
“The team used our aircraft, Helimed 56, to fly to the island and were then retrieved in the coastguard’s AW189 to fly the patient to UHS.”
Alex Lochrane, HIOWAA chief executive, said: “We’re in this struggle together, a struggle that is far from over.
“It is our duty to do everything we can to ensure the safety of residents on the island and that they get the necessary critical care during this pandemic.
“We are prepared to do whatever it takes in this continued challenge against Covid-19.”
A spokeswoman for Isle of Wight NHS Trust said: “At the weekend we transferred two critical care patients who were Covid-19 positive to University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
“We have tried and tested processes in place for transferring patients to mainland hospitals by helicopter, these transfers happen regularly and are part of our business as usual, being a small hospital on an island.”