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Magazine Helicopter Industry #102

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HELICOPTER INDUSTRY I

HELICOPTER INDUSTRY I FOCUS I ©HIOWAA HAMPSHIRE AIR AMBULANCE JOINS FORCES WITH THE RAF While the United Kingdom East has just announced a threeweek extension of the containment to cope with Covid-19, air evacuation of patients is intensifying, particularly in the south of the country. The operator, Hampshire and Isles of Wight Air Ambulance – HIOWAA – has unveiled that it is one of the first air ambulance services to work with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to transport Covid-19 patients. On Tuesday 7 April, members of the HIOWAA Intensive Care Unit were able to carry out the emergency transfer of a patient from Jersey to Southampton University Hospital in an RAF Chinook. Training with the RAF A mission previously prepared during an exercise carried out in particular with units from Odiham Air Force Base housing the Chinooks last week on the Thruxton site of HIOWAA base. «Our intensive care teams have been working alongside military personnel to prepare to provide increased support to patients in the Isle of Wight and other more remote areas during the Covid-19 pandemic,» said the teams from the Charitable Care Unit. During the exercise, the doctors and nurses simulated the loading of critically ill patients and provide constant care support within the cargo holds of the rotary wing aircraft currently in service with the RAF, namely Chinook HC6, Puma HC2 and Merlin HC3. The operational procedures practiced during this exercise have been incorporated into new operational procedures being developed to oversee the collaboration between military crews and air ambulance services across the country. For Alex Lochrane, President and CEO of HIOWAA, these missions are vitally important because «It is absolutely our duty to do everything we can to ensure that patients on the Isle of Wight, and other more remote areas, receive the critical care they need during the current pandemic. This is an extremely impressive and vitally important collaboration with the RAF and I am immensely proud of our intensive care clinicians and the Group Care Management team at Southampton University Hospital, who have responded with flexibility and total disinterest to the rapidly evolving health crisis, demonstrating their usual professionalism, dedication and teamwork». The units on board the Odiham Chinooks Following this initial operation, the charity’s ambulance and medical teams are now expected to be integrated de facto on board military helicopters, particularly Chinooks operating in the region to provide urgent critical care to patients who will be transferred to the country’s major trauma centres, including Southampton University Hospital and the new NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in London. To meet the need for emergency medical evacuations in the south of the country, three Chinook helicopters, each capable of transporting up to two ventilated patients each, have been placed on standby at the Odiham base in Hampshire. The use of these helicopters is proving to be particularly vital as Dr Simon Hughes, HIOWAA’s senior consultant in prehospital emergency medicine for over 10 years, who led the joint training session, points out: «The Chinook not only has the advantage of range and speed, but also offers more cabin space than the EC135 operated by HIOWAA, allowing us to continue treating patients who could potentially be positive on the Covid-19, while maintaining a safe distance from the military crew». In addition to the Covid missions, the charity’s teams continue to respond to critically ill patients throughout the region, implementing the EC135 that the charity received in 2015 to replace an identical aircraft delivered in 2010. MORE ABOUT RAF HI I 32

©HIOWAA ©Charlotte Cotronis FRENCH EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE HELICOPTERS IN THE FRONT LINE Helicopter medical rescue, in France, switched in “Covid-19 mode”. A business manager of SAF Hélicoptères, one of four companies beside Babcock, MBH and NHV serving the Service d’aide médicale urgente (SAMU) in the country, including French overseas territories, recalls the arrangements made the benefit of hospitals and their patients. Basically, their mission doesn’t change beyond measure. Transporting patients from one hospital to another in suitable safety and sanitary conditions is, indeed, their daily tasks. Since the appearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, helicopter transport companies under contract with care facilities, in France, saw evolve the order of priorities. «Apart from any crisis situation, SAF Hélicoptères transports 5 500 patients per year, carries out 7 000 missions in about 6 000 flight hours. In full Covid-19 epidemic, it’s impossible for the time being to predict if this activity level will be matched or exceeded. But it is certain that the mobilization of crews and helicopters is total», said Marc Latour, helicopter pilot, business development manager at SAF Hélicoptères. Total, indeed, and everybody knows why. From the French people point of view, the peak of the epidemic seems to be in the process of being reached. In other words, the crisis took unseen proportions until then. In Paris area, where healthcare infrastructure is known as the largest in Europe, facilities are saturated. To free up space in intensive care units The medical rescue helicopter is called to play a new role, in addition to the one he usually plays. It’s implemented to free up beds in saturated intensive care units, transporting patients to more or less distant facilities able to accommodate them. «Our other activity areas, such as aerial work, passenger transportation (both VIP and tourists) and training, record a sharp decline. The usual medical transportation also tends to decrease, because the medical emergency isn’t managed as it usually is», said Marc Latour. In these dark hours, the 16 helicopters deployed by SAF Hélicoptères from their ten air bases (most of them are located south of a Toulouse-Besançon line) are now solicited on a new field of operations. «Crews must serve hospital platforms they aren’t necessarily used to go to.» History will perhaps remember that at the start of the epidemic, doctors didn’t plan to use helicopters to transport patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. But the speed of virus propagation as well as the number of registered cases in a to short period of time changed their minds. Protected crews Simultaneously, this unexpected transportation mission required new measures: the crew protection – pilot and flight attendant. «Crews wear protection masks at least. When it comes to transport people infected with the Covid-19 virus and showing signs of acute pathology, we erected a separation barrier between the cockpit and the cabin where doctors, nurses and patients take place. This barrier is materialized by a kind of plastic transparent tarpaulin. As it is confirmed that the patient is infected with the SARS-CoV-2, in addition to the mask, our staffs wear a cap covering the hair and the ears, protection glasses and gloves.» It is clear that the culture of medical emergency, year after year accumulated experience in association with the medical staff greatly facilitates the task of all the professionals involved in a fight that no one expected. MORE ABOUT SAMU HI I 33