13 December 2019
Specialist clinicians at two world-leading adult burns units are now providing critical care to eight New South Wales residents injured in the White Island volcano disaster.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said, with two more patients expected to be repatriated today, the commitment and skills of all health staff involved was incredible.

“Even as we continue to mourn the loss of our fellow Australians, our focus in the NSW Health system is on treating the critical injuries suffered by those now in our care,” Dr Chant said.

“Five patients are being treated at Concord Hospital, and three patients are being treated at Royal North Shore Hospital, with two more on the way home soon.

“There is no other place I would rather see these patients treated than at these two hospitals, whose world-class clinical care gives us with the best chance to save lives.”

Dr Peter Haertsch, Head of Department of Operating Theatres and Plastic Surgery, Concord State-wide Burns Service, said treating volcano burns presented many challenges.

“The patients under our care have been exposed to a fast-moving cloud of very hot volcanic gas and volcanic matter such as pumice and ash,” Dr Haertsch said.

“As a result, they have suffered severe contact skin burns with severe injuries due to inhalation of gas and ash, and we are looking at extensive and intensive care for these patients, some of whom are still in a life-threatening condition.

“Once again, I commend the skills and co-operation of New Zealand health authorities, who have provided excellent immediate care when this tragedy occurred,” he said.

Dr Chant also said NSW Health's Organ and Tissue Donation Service has provided a large volume, 10,000 cm2, of skin to New Zealand to assist with the management of burns victims in consultation with the State and National Disaster Coordination teams.

“I assure the community that NSW has skin available to treat those burns patients being repatriated to NSW as well as potential bush fire burns injuries,” she said.

Skin is donated by deceased donors. NSW Health would like to recognise these donors as their skin is now being used to help the patients being treated in New Zealand and those being returned to NSW for treatment.