Medical staff 'hopeful' despite 'difficult challenges ahead' for White Island burns victims

Middlemore Hospital medical staff treating burns victims of the Whakaari/White Island tragedy are hopeful their condition will improve despite there being 'difficult challenges ahead' for some in the most critical conditions.

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Dr Peter Watson, Chief Medical Officer at Counties Manukau Health said many have very serious injuries. Source: 1 NEWS

Of the fifteen people being treated in New Zealand hospitals following Monday's disaster, eight are based at the National Burns Centre (NBC) at South Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital.

The Chief Medical Officer at Counties Manukau Health, Dr Peter Watson, told 1 NEWS all of those at the NBC have suffered severe burns with some having ‘inhalation injuries’ - many requiring airway support at the same time as other treatment.

“These are very serious injuries for many of them and continue to be life threatening,” he says.

“It remains very difficult challenges ahead for many of these patients.

“We are really hopeful and we are going to do everything we can, it’s an incredible team of doctors, nurses, our allied health people and our support staff to ensure that we are doing everything possible.

“But it is still possible that people will not survive even though they are receiving world-class care from amazing people in these units,” Dr Watson says.

He said of the group of burns patients based at the NBC, many are in intensive care and many of them are having to go to theatre.

“That is an ongoing process for these people but there are a number of people in this group who are very unwell, in a critical state and over the coming days and weeks we are hopeful that they will improve to a point where they will come off those critical lists.”

Dr Watson says offers from medical specialists from overseas have also been welcomed by their team. 

"We have our first Australian burns surgeon arrived overnight and has commenced work here at Middlemore in the National Burns Unit in the operating theatres today."

He said there has been an "incredible response" from many in the medical and local community.