Letters

SVG’s Argyle Airport Still a Danger

Peter Binose also wrote about air crash victims if there was an accident at Argyle Airport.

“What other reasons may the airlines have for not even considering Argyle as a destination”?

(1). Only enough hotels to service one 400 seat aircraft every two weeks.

(2). No emergency hospital within a reasonable distance of Argyle.

(3). No specialist medical services, such as a burn unit, etc.

(4). No rescue vessels for flights in an emergency landing on water.

(5). No rescue helicopters.

As Binose so rightly pointed out, “The hospital in Kingstown has no real emergency facility except in the sense of a cottage-hospital-style where a dozen emergencies can be seen daily, and sometimes patients sit for 16 hours to get treatment. No burns unit, scanning, and X-ray equipment, which is more out of service than in.”

What has prompted me to write this at this time is the Gas Station fire at Union Island.

People were burnt during this incident. The 70-year-old owner of the station has since died from first degree burns. A young girl is seriously injured with second-degree burns and fighting for her life. She has now been evacuated to Trinidad for proper medical aid and treatment. But why could she not be adequately attended to in SVG?

Those of us who know little about medical terms regarding burns would think that first degree burns are more severe than second-degree burns, but that is not so. Second-degree burns, or partial-thickness burns, are more severe than first-degree burns. They affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, and part of the second layer of skin called the dermis.

Second-degree burns can be excruciatingly painful and often take many weeks to heal. Burns that affect large areas of skin can cause severe complications and may be prone to infection.

Peter Binose wrote this when addressing the dangers at Argyle Airport:

“Drugs and dressings rarely available and families having to scour the country’s pharmacies to try and get such drugs and dressings as their loved ones require, that is hardly a situation that would be tolerated by an airline considering flying here.

The hospital floods when it rains hard and waters are known to run through the operating theatre ceiling at other times, causing it frequently to be unusable.

There is only one [single-lane] highway from the airport to the hospital, which includes passing through Kingstown, which at certain times of the day is gridlocked.

The highway from Argyle to Kingstown is hazardous and has some sheer drops and no safety barriers. The road will be more hazardous when the airport opens with fuel tanker trucks carrying aviation and jet fuel to the airport.

Safety barriers approaching Kingstown are damaged and lay unrepaired for the last ten years on the approach to Kingstown. There is no hospital or government-owned helicopters for sea or land rescue. They have only recently got four decent ambulances, which may well take over an hour to go to Argyle and the same or more to return to Kingstown.

Hopefully, there will be a purchase made before the airport opens of about eight ambulances to be permanently located at Argyle airport. There are no helicopters anywhere in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, privately or publicly owned, even the Coast Guard are without such an aircraft.

There are no search and rescue vessels available in the area, or anywhere in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines capable of rescuing passengers from an aircraft downed in the sea, they just do not exist.

We cannot rely on our coast guard, remember how they stood by while members of the public rescued school children from the sea and crashed van at Sandy Bay.”

I am writing this so as everyone understands. Aircraft accidents quite often end with the aircraft catching on fire; the passengers are at risk of being burnt. But to make things worse, SVG has no hospital with a burn unit; they would never be able to cope with a small number of injuries, even less so if there were a lot of people injured.

Since Binose wrote about the fire risk at the Argyle airport, nothing has got better. A new specialized hospital unit has been built at Georgetown, built by Cubans after many years of delay; the Cubans were seven years late in finishing the hospital just like they were six years late in finishing the Argyle airport.

They will not be able to cope in any way whatsoever with an aircraft incident. They are not even an emergency hospital; just a unit built close to an active volcano, and so far away from the main Vincentian populace to be next to useless.

I ask you the readers and, in particular, the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – what would happen if a 400 seat aircraft had an accident at the airport or in SVG or its waters? How would they cope with hundreds of injuries when they cannot cope with just two from a petrol fire at Union?

Think about it: how would they rescue them, transport them, and treat them?

How would 400 injured people get to Kingstown, would it take days? Where would they put the injured? Who would be capable of treating them? Not quite so important, where they would store the dead, God forbid.

I doubt they even have enough dressings, medicines, or personnel to cope with twenty, let alone four hundred.

We must not just think about COVID 19; there are many other medical matters that have got so much worse in SVG over the years that they may be a more significant threat.

The FAA has recently reduced the Argyle International Airport to a category 2 facility.

Nathan ‘Jolly’ Green

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