Medical flights affected by Skeyes staffing problems – the Walloon government reacts

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The latest social outcry at Belgian air navigation service provider Skeyes has serious economic consequences – millions of euros lost by airlines and affected airports. But there are also less known impacts, for example on medical transport.

Belgian television RTBF relates at least three cases of “medical flights inherently highly sensitive to service interruptions in the transport sector” that could have had dramatic consequences.

During Skeyes’ first night of service disruption on 1 March 2019, items scheduled to be delivered the next day were finally delivered on 5 March, 3 days later. Except that the shipment had to be transported quickly and under special conditions and was no longer usable in the laboratory that was waiting for it.

After the April 16 work stoppage, more than 1,000 blood samples sent by airfreight to laboratories for urgent specific analysis have become unstable and new blood samples will need to be collected.

Even worse, a shipment containing an artificial heart from Germany to Spain could not be delivered. The artificial heart was expected at noon for a child in need of urgent surgery. The surgery had to be postponed to the next day, thus putting the child’s life in great danger. Fortunately, everything went well for the child.

Given that unacceptable situation affecting particularly Liege Airport, the Government of Wallonia has decided to suspend the payments of Walloon airports to Skeyes for services that are not rendered. “We pay eight million euros in fees per year. As long as we do not receive the service requested, Wallonia will certainly not pay anything more, since Skeyes is not meeting its obligations,” says Jean-Luc Crucke, Minister in charge of airports, in an interview to RTBF this Friday.

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