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Whakaari: National Burn Centre meet Whakatāne Hospital team

07 August 2020

The head of the country's National Burn Centre has passed on a message of gratitude to Whakatāne Hospital staff from Whakaari/White Island survivors who 'you moved heaven and earth' to keep alive.

Whakaari: National Burn Centre meet Whakatāne Hospital team
National Burn Centre Clinical Leader Dr Richard Wong She (front left) with visiting burns specialists and Whakatāne Hospital and wider BOPDHB staff.

National Burn Centre Clinical Leader and Plastics Surgeon Dr Richard Wong She yesterday visited the hospital along with National Burn Service Coordinator Tracey Perrett, Burn Governance Group Chair Dr Mark Moores and a group of burns specialists who treated patients from the December 9 2019 eruption.

Whakatāne Hospital was the first to receive tourists and tour guides from the eruption. The team worked through the night triaging and stabilising patients; transferring them to intensive care units and the national burns units around the country with the last patient airlifted out the following day. 

Dr Richard Wong She says it was really important to visit the hospital to talk with and listen to staff that, "put everything into providing the best of care for those patients before they were transferred out."

"Those patients you moved heaven and earth for, we too moved heaven and earth, and they did as well as they possibly could."

As a result of the tragedy, the National Burn Service saw more burns at once than it would expect to treat in a year.

"For every percentage of burns to their bodies those patients spent a day and a half in hospital having operations.

"The survivors I treated in the National Burn Centre told me how grateful they were for care they received.  It was important for me to pass that onto the team here at Whakatāne Hospital where their care in our health system began," says Dr Wong She.

Forty-seven people were on Whakaari White Island at the time of the eruption; 21 lost their lives including two local tour guides.