BATSUB cancels civil emergency medical air service
When you live on an island with limited medical facilities, it is imperative for its residents to know what to do in times of a medical emergency. So when The Sun found out that the British Army Training Support Unit of Belize (BATSUB) cancelled civil emergency evacuations for the entire country including the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker, it was enough reason to find out more. A call was placed to BATSUB and their Press Officer Major Sean Ryan confirmed that indeed emergency medical air service has been cancelled.
Major Ryan explained that several conditions contributed to BATSUB's discontinuing their services. Ryan stated that with the unavailability of pilots and having to overhaul their choppers, they had no other option but to cancel the air medical service. He could not state for how long such services would be unavailable, but he did mention that even after the choppers are overhauled, BATSUB still will have a shortage of available pilots and will be unable to offer the service on a 24 hour basis. So what does this mean for the over 12 thousand plus residents on Ambergris Caye? Doctor Javier Zuniga stated that it spells "serious problems."
According to Dr. Zuniga, most of the emergencies that require further medical attention on the island happen at night. Zuniga explained that in the past, patients that required transportation would be evacuated via BATSUB and arrangement would have been done through the Poly Clinic. With the cancellation of BATSUB's emergency air evacuation, the Poly Clinic will only arrange transportation for daytime evacuation via the Belize Emergency Response Team (BERT). So what will happen to a night patient should he/she requiring further medical attention off the island? Zuniga stated that unfortunately, transportation arrangements in such cases will fall squarely on the family. While it is not the most practical and realistic approach, it's the only thing the management of the Poly Clinic can do until a proper arrangement can be made. However, Zuniga cautioned that the situation is of "extreme urgency" and needs to be dealt with quickly, especial considering that the island is a prime tourism destination.
Area Representative and Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture Manuel Heredia Jr. told The Sun that he was unaware of the decision taken by BATSUB. However, he stated that as the matter is of extreme importance, he will be following up with the relative authorities to come up with a plan. Heredia also stated that he will be taking the issue to Cabinet in the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday August 24th and promised to inform the public about a more practical and realistic plan.
Until a quick and practical alternative is worked out, residents are advised to have a medical evacuation plan should the need arise. Hence, residents are advised to contact Astrum Helicopters (222-5100), Tropic Air (226-2012) or Maya Island Air (223-1140 - Contact Joe Gillett) to get their emergency numbers should you find yourself in need of air evacuations. The above businesses all offer emergency medical evacuation, at a cost of course. The San Pedro Sun also highly recommends contacting the various water taxi services to find out if they offer medical emergency evacuation off the island and if they do, to get the emergency contact number.http://www.sanpedrosun.com/news/batsub-cancels-civil-emergency-medical-air-service/