New Zealand spent almost $1 million on donated skin to help victims of the Whakaari/White Island eruption.
By Abbey Wakefield
After the eruption, orders were placed overseas for just over 338,000 square centimetres of skin, the largest order ever made by the New Zealand Blood Service.
The eruption claimed 21 lives and left 23 more with burns, some very severe.
“Some of the burns were hot ash burns, hot air burns and there were some that were acidic burns,” said Middlemore Hospital’s clinical director John Kenealy.
The orders were placed at skin banks in Australia and the United States, with the first shipment arriving overnight costing over $800,000.
Around 83 per cent (228,000 square centimetres) of that entire shipment was used in the first week on the Whakaari/White Island patients.
“This is the biggest acute demand of skin that we’ve had as long as the skin banks have been running,” said Richard Charlewood of the NZ Blood Service.
New Zealand isn’t self-sufficient in skin, so a sudden mass burns incident like the White Island eruption meant relying on overseas skin banks to stock up.
Donated skin is the best way to heal burns, protecting against fluid loss and infection.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said within 24 hours the national mass burns plan was activated for the first time.
A review of the medical response to the Whakaari/White Island eruption is currently underway.