What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about a medical air ambulance? If you’re like most people, your mind has already conjured the image of a helicopter airlifting injured soldiers from the battlefield. Or you might be visualizing an aircraft landing near the site of an accident on a remote island.
Air ambulances in the USA have always played a crucial role in medical emergencies. Patients suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses often use medical air ambulances to seek advanced treatment in foreign countries. Similarly, these services come in handy for transporting organs from one healthcare facility to another.
An air ambulance is just as useful for medical evacuation purposes. When an individual gets seriously ill or injured in a foreign country, medical flights are used to bring them back to the safety of their home country.
It gives them a chance to get treated in the comfort of their loved ones. Also, they get to claim proper insurance benefits, that wouldn’t have been applicable in a foreign country.
COVID-19 and the Ongoing Healthcare Crisis
While air ambulances have always been an indispensable part of emergency healthcare, their role has become even more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The start of the pandemic triggered a major healthcare crisis – one that the world hadn’t witnessed in decades. On the one hand, healthcare organizations were flooded with patients suffering from serious complications due to COVID-19. ICU and ventilator shortages became commonplace across the globe.
On the other hand, healthcare workers were under extreme stress due to long working hours and the risk of exposure. As nurses and physicians succumbed to the novel coronavirus, hospitals had to deal with staff shortages too.
The impact of the pandemic wasn’t restricted to COVID-19 patients. Individuals scheduled for routine surgeries and other treatment procedures had to wait until it was safer to visit a hospital. That could be catastrophic for patients with serious ailments, such as cancer, kidney failure, cystic fibrosis, etc.
So, how have air ambulances helped healthcare organizations and patients overcome these challenges? Let’s find out.
Safe and Quick Transportation of COVID-19 Patients
Most people who get infected with the novel coronavirus experience mild symptoms and recover at home. However, some patients suffer moderate or severe breathing problems and need to be hospitalized.
Worse still, many of them develop life-threatening conditions, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cytokine storm, and pneumothorax. In these cases, patients often need to be moved to hospitals with advanced medical facilities, including mechanical ventilation and ECMO.
Speed is of the essence when transferring critically ill COVID-19 patients. And that’s where medical air ambulance services step into the picture.
An air ambulance helps minimize the time that’s needed to provide a patient with the necessary medical care. Depending on the logistics, patients can be transferred from one city to another in less than an hour.
Also, modern air ambulances come with a wide array of in-built equipment, including ventilators, infusion pumps, IV pumps, blood gas analyzers, cardiac monitors, and ECMO machines.
During the pandemic, many operators even procured single-patient isolation units with an in-built airflow system. Similarly, they procured non-invasive ventilation helmets to eliminate the need for intubating patients.
That helped ensure the safe transfer of COVID-19 patients without putting the flight crew at risk.
Apart from pilots and flight attendants, air ambulance operators also recruit a team of nurses and paramedics. The trained medical staff monitors a patient’s vitals and administers life-saving interventions in case of mid-air emergencies.
Seamless Medical Evacuation
During the pandemic, the use of air ambulances in the US hasn’t been restricted to healthcare emergencies. There have been numerous reports of people using these services to return to their home country from abroad.
That’s precisely what happened in the case of Beth Ring and her family, who had traveled to Jamaica to celebrate the Christmas holidays. A day before their return flight to Chicago, the family tested positive for COVID-19.
Even though their symptoms could be described as ‘mild’ at best, the Rings weren’t allowed to board their flight. The heavy influx of tourists in Jamaica meant they couldn’t find a proper quarantine facility either
They were left with no other choice but to spend a whopping $35,000 to book a private air ambulance to the US.
The Rings aren’t an exception. As travel restrictions are being eased, many tourists find themselves stranded in foreign countries when they test positive for COVID-19. Air ambulances provide them with a way to return to their home country and seek proper treatment.
The growing use of air ambulance services will transform emergency medical care. Both COVID and non-COVID patients can be safely moved to healthcare institutions with proper amenities that can cater to their condition. Air ambulance providers must focus on upgrading their aircraft by embracing the latest tech innovations.