Five ventilators will be arriving in Jersey this weekend, the Health Minister has confirmed, as he revealed the island was “in discussions” with the NHS over securing beds for patients needing more serious treatment.
Deputy Richard Renouf said the five ventilators were part of an order of 15, which had hit unexpected delays.
The admission came following questions from Deputy Trevor Pointon during a virtual hearing with the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel.
Deputy Pointon noted that on 18 March, officials had said 12 additional ventilators had been ordered and were due to arrive within two weeks.
Pictured: The Health Minister, Richard Renouf.
“We are still expecting those ventilators,” the Health Minister said. "We are expecting five out of an order of 15, relatively soon but they are being chased.
“This is not unusual, this is happening to health authorities all over the world.There are so many orders in for so much equipment that is rapidly moving around the world. The demand is such is that supply routes are so stretched that we can’t rely on the normal timetables, or the normal timetables are not being fulfilled.”
Despite Deputy Pointon specifically asking when these ventilators had originally been ordered, the Health Minister didn’t comment on the subject.
He promised the ventilators were on their way, and had been ordered through the NHS, which he described as the “most reliable supply route”.
“We anticipate, we have good expectation of them coming soon, five and then a further ten,” he added.
Video: The Health Minister confirmed during a press conference that the five ventilators were expected this weekend.
Following questions from Express, the Health Minister later confirmed during a press conference that the five ventilators were expected this weekend. He however added that the Department had previously been given delivery information that hadn't been followed.
The comments came after the Chief Minister explained that some of the island's attempts to secure medical supplies had hit hurdles in the form of 'gazumping', with bidding wars rife as global demand for similar products grows.
None of those present specifically addressed whether Jersey was seeking to tap into the ventilator supplies being generated by repurposed manufacturers like Dyson or Rolls Royce, but Medical Director Patrick Armstrong explained that there were difficulties in sourcing different types of ventilators as each uses a "disposable" element, with some parts not working on other machines.
He also said that staff would have to be trained in each type of machine, adding that it would be "fantastic to get more ventilators, but we also need to use them safely."
Pictured: Medical Director for Health and Community Services, Patrick Armstrong.
Mr Armstrong previously confirmed to Express that the island does not have an extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which provides life support in the most serious cases, and that patients are usually flown to the UK to use this.
Asked by Express whether the island had a contingency plan for critically ill patients for whom ventilators are not enough, the Health Minister confirmed that the government is "in discussions with the NHS and hospitals in the UK about the circumstances that they might be able to take Jersey patients in for critical care".
He suggested that there may be "pockets" in the UK "not under such pressure", but noted that Jersey should nonetheless prepare on the basis "we would not be able to rely on the NHS".
Deputy Renouf further cautioned that there are also "real dangers" in moving somebody already on a ventilator onto life support in the UK.
Pictured: Additional staff are being trained in the use of ventilators.
Earlier in the day, the Minister provided reassurances that neither the 24 ventilators currently in the island nor the Intensive Care Unit were currently at capacity, with only “a very small number” of people being ventilated.
He said there was still “flexibility” in the system, as the hospital hadn’t reached the “critical point” where anaesthetic ventilation would have to be used.
Meanwhile, additional staff are being trained in the use of ventilators.
The Health Minister said “significant progress” had been made with people who wouldn’t normally be in intensive care stepping forward to take up “intensive training”.
Patrick Armstrong, the Medical Director for Health and Community Services, said that staff whose level of skill can be easily adapted to the ICU had already been working on the ward and learning on a day-by-day basis.
Rose Naylor, the island’s Chief Nurse, also said different organisations across the island had released around 14 employees with experience of critical care either in Jersey or elsewhere to boost the hospital's ICU team.
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