Alderney clinicians work up coronavirus action plan
CLINICIANS in Alderney are examining options for how to get people with coronavirus to Guernsey for specialist treatment, should the infection spread to the island.
Aurigny is contractually prevented from providing airborne medevacs where contagious diseases are concerned.
Medics are looking at what transferrals by sea might be possible.
Health & Social Care, led by Public Health Director Dr Nicola Brink, are providing the lead on how to prevent, limit the spread and potentially treat cases of coronavirus in Alderney.
Island Medical Centre Clinical director Dr Sally Simmons, who also with her GP colleagues provide medical cover at the Mignot Memorial Hospital, said there were several concerns specific to Alderney that were being discussed.
Very ill patients requiring care beyond the scope of the Mignot Memorial Hospital would have to travel for treatment at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. Testing for coronavirus also depends on sending material by air to Guernsey, so is at the mercy of weather, aircraft and crew availability.
‘We are in daily contact and any questions that we have with specifics to Alderney are being answered very promptly.
‘Our main concern is about transferring patients to Guernsey. By air is not an option, which has always been the case with infectious patients.
‘There is talk that the Flying Christine could be utilised. It would be a very uncomfortable journey on a boat. It takes an hour and a half to get up here [Alderney] and to get back in reasonably good weather. At a push the RNLI lifeboat could be utilised, and it has been done before in extreme cases. But I’d prefer not to use that because the lifeboat’s job is to save lives at sea.
‘Alternatives we’ve considered is having a retrieval team come up from Guernsey, so that’s doctors and nurses especially trained to manage very severe cases of Covid-19 – so these are people with a very severe respiratory illness like pneumonia.’
The Mignot Memorial Hospital has 22 beds, mostly in individual rooms.
It also has equipment for chest X-rays and there is an island-based radiographer.
‘By and large I would expect to be able to manage those patients here in the hospital in an isolation area,’ said Dr Simmons.
Protecting Alderney’s large population of people more vulnerable to flu is one of Dr Simmons’ biggest tasks. ‘Alderney has an interesting demographic in that, with a population of 2,000 people, more than half are over 65. Now the vast majority of those over 65-year-olds are pretty fit and healthy but there are a number of those who have underlying health conditions – things like diabetes, asthma, heart disease and so on. Those are the people who are increasingly at risk of catching Covid-19. So protecting those people is my main job, that of my team and everyone else who works with us.
‘We are seeing an awful lot of travellers returning to the island or coming to visit elderly residents, and we also have the Gambling Commission here, which has people travelling round the world continually, so we are being very careful.’