At the most recent Air Medical Transport Conference, the Air Medical Physician Association (AMPA) board was informed of shocking recent developments that are seriously affecting air ambulances whose operations include transporting patients to and from Central America.
According to Dr. Eduardo Loyola, an AMPA member and medical director from Costa Rica, authorities in that country have discovered that drug cartels have begun to exploit air ambulances as part of their activities in Central America.
Dr. Loyola says the Costa Rican cartels have “discovered new and more sophisticated ways to support the logistics, fund the transport operations, and infiltrate key players” by using air medical operations.
When a helicopter used in air medical transport crashed recently in the Costa Rican jungle, it was discovered to have been carrying 400 kilos of cocaine on board.
Two days ago, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ jet touched down on the runway at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas. She had been transported from Tucson to Houston for her rehabilitation via an air ambulance. A news media frenzy followed the countdown to her take-off to her safe, uneventful landing. For some individuals, this was the first time hearing the term “air ambulance.”
Immediately, online news outlets, television networks, and newspaper pages across the country lit up with gleaming-but-true descriptions of high-tech “flying intensive care units.”
“It may look like an ordinary Lear jet, but this aircraft is anything but ordinary,” came the words from Som Lisaius, a reporter for KOLD News 13 in Phoenix, Arizona, in a story titled “ICU at 6000 feet.”
The province of Saskatchewan is rushing to quickly retrofit an old government executive plane into a third air ambulance. Coinciding with this, they are now mandating that two pilots be required on all air ambulance flights by the end of the year.
Following a small accident after an otherwise successful landing earlier this month, that caused a plane’s landing gear to hit deep snow and veer off the Maple Creek Airport runway into a window at 45mph (no patients were on board at the time – the pilot and two passengers were okay, only the nose and propeller were damaged), Saskatchewan has been left with only 2 air ambulances to cover the entire province – that’s over 227,000 square miles.
Staying current with trends around the world, healthcare firms in India are reportedly looking to air ambulances to improve their emergency healthcare response system and transport patients in remote areas to hospitals across the country.
Sify, a Financial/Business News service in India, has just reported that OSS Air Management, a Delhi-based helicopter service provider, has acquired two AugustaWestland AW-109′s with the goal of starting the first helicopter ambulance service in Bangalore by this summer. (Technically the company is aiming for mid-2011, which means in India it will be the Monsoon season – it will be summer in the northern hemisphere.)
OSS is using the AW-109s as part of a “pilot project” for medical service deployment in Bangalore. For this, they have joined forces with a prominent super-specialty hospital in the city called Vydehi. During this stage of the project, OSS will supply the helicopters, the pilots to fly them, and the mechanics to maintain them – while facilities for the new ambulances like helipads, fuel, and residences for the pilots will be supplied by their partner hospital.
Happy New Year, everyone! This story about a study last year is quickly making the rounds. Findings from the University of Rochester School of Medicine now show that trauma patients transported by helicopter ambulance are more likely to survive and be discharged home after treatment than patients transported by ground – despite typically being more seriously injured, in transport for a longer duration, and requiring more hospital resources than the average trauma patient transported by normal ambulance.
The six-page study, titled “Helicopters and the Civilian Trauma System: National Utilization Patterns Demonstrate Improved Outcomes After Traumatic Injury,” opened with the idea that the role helicopters should play in civilian trauma care is still controversial. The objective was to compare the outcomes of patients after being transported from the scene of injury by helicopter and ground ambulance respectively.