When you accompany a patient to a fixed wing air medical transport vehicle, you would be accompanied by qualified professionals belonging to both ground ambulance and air ambulance. However, knowing certain protocols can always come handy, and ensure a safe and swift transfer of the patient to the air medical transport vehicle.
Getting to the Air Medical Transport Vehicle
First and foremost, the ground ambulance needs to wait for the aircraft to shut down its engines completely before approaching it. Even when the ambulance approaches the air medical transport vehicle, it has to stop at least 25 feet away. All flashing lights must be switched off and only the headlights must be used in case of poor visibility.
You must wait for the crew to arrive to the ground ambulance to take the patient away. Switch off the ground ambulance immediately after reaching the destination to avoid the exhaust fumes getting into the aircraft. Keep in mind that the aircraft might be pressurized to a certain degree and the exhaust fumes can be quite a disturbance.
Taking the Patient to the Air Medical Transport Vehicle
Walking in front of the wing of the airplane is a strict no. Also, refrain from opening the doors of the air ambulance. Assist in loading the patient only if help is requested. If the help is sought, do not stay inside the air medical transport vehicle unnecessarily after loading the patient, unless you are travelling along. Never hesitate to ask what you must and must not do once inside and when travelling with the patient.
Before Exiting the Airport
It is wise to leave the airport only after the air medical transport vehicle takes off. Inform the crew of any issues such as debris or animals in the vicinity that might hinder takeoff. Even when the ground ambulance moves away from the aircraft, the flashing lights must be switched off.
Finally, have all your questions relating to the medical travel answered before the transfer. Your questions at the last moment can unnecessarily waste valuable time.
It is natural for one to wonder what separates medical flights from commercial charter flights, after all both would be available on demand. Of course, a medical flight would be fitted with equipment that are designed to serve the patients but one might ask whether such equipment can be made available at short notice in a charter flight. In fact some of the features of medical flights are always available in commercial charger flights. So, what exactly is the difference?
Oxygen System in Medical Flights
Oxygen would be available in both; however, medical flights store a different class of oxygen. Unlike charter planes that can only deliver about 4 to 8 liters of oxygen per minute, medical flights can deliver oxygen at 25 liters per minute. Plus it delivers medical grade oxygen and not oxygen butanes that commercial flights do.
Sickbeds in Medical Flights
The maximum you would find in a charter flight is a temporary stretcher. However, a medical sickbed is permanently anchored on medical flights and come with far superior features than a temporary stretcher.
Power Systems in Medical Flights
Medical equipment need power supply that is vastly different from that available on commercial charter flights. The equipment need DC 28V and AC 110V power supply, which is inbuilt in medical flights. No such facilities would be available in commercial flights.
Cabin Pressure in Medical Flights
Certain medical conditions demand that there is a constant barometric pressure. Medical flights are designed to maintain such pressures. On the other hand, the pressure in charter flights varies with altitudes over 5000 feet above sea level.
Medical flights are better equipped to handle emergencies
Medical flights only ferry passengers and would be on standby 24 hours a day. The patients are assured of qualified medical care onboard and do not have to make separate arrangements for that. Most life support equipment would be already onboard and only certain equipment in special circumstances need to be borrowed from the transferring hospital.
It normally makes both practical and economic sense to transport a patient via ground ambulance for transports within 200 miles.
Helicopter Air Ambulance
A helicopter Air Ambulance is generally used if an emergency transport is needed, especially from hospital to hospital within a range of about 200 miles.
Airplane (Fixed Wing) Air Ambulance
Non emergency transports more than 200 miles are usually most effective in a airplane air ambulance. Emergency air transports that are more than 300 miles are usually most effective in airplane air ambulance.
Patients are flown by fixed wing for many different reasons. These can range from the stable patient involved in an accident, or with a long-term medical condition, wishing to relocate closer to family for rehabilitative care, to the critical heart failure patient requiring intensive care transfer to receive a transplant. The fixed wing environment differs from the rotor wing environment primarily in that fixed wing travels farther, faster and higher. The fixed wing is primarily a facility-to-facility transport, typically long distance in nature.
Secondly, there are typically more choices of different types of aircraft, and selections that are less expensive per mile and/or per hour to operate. With licensure and accreditation standards available and easily verifiable, the care provided in the fixed wing environment is the same as the helicopter. The fixed wing is typically not in competition with the rotor wing in that the rotor wing service typically is for moving a patient from a scene to a primary care facility, or a tertiary care facility to a primary care facility.
The debate among users continues with this issue. Some pilots and passengers have always believed two is better than one. On certain levels this is still true today. Anyone flying 100 miles offshore, or over mountainous terrain at night feels better knowing that there are two engines working for him or her. However, with the advent of truly reliable turbine engines, the probability of and engine failure is greatly reduced making the single-engine helicopter a safe and economical choice. A great deal depends on the type of missions flown, and the space required to accomplish it. All medium and large capacity helicopters are multi-engine, needed for the power required to lift the payload.
There is no standard aircraft utilized in medEvac operations. Airplanes (fixed-wing aircraft) vary in size from single-engine turboprops such as the Pilatius PC-12 to twin-engine aircraft like the Cessna Citation, Beech B-200, and Lear 35. Most are either turboprop or jet aircraft which lends to faster, more versatile performance. In helicopter operations, again, no one make or model is the standard. Helicopters are chosen for a myriad of reasons such as payload capability, range, economy of operation, and geographic location. The most common helicopters found in medEvac use are the Bell 206/407, and Eurocopter AS-350 for single-engine aircraft. For multi-engine the medium sized Bell 222/230, Eurocopter BO-105, BK-117, and Agusta A-109 are widely used. The largest multi-engine helicopters in service with medEvac services across the nation are the Sikorsky S-76, Bell 412, and the Eurocopter AS-365. All aircraft used in medEvac operations have proven themselves with thousands of safe transports.
Yes, when it is necessary for a permitted vehicle/aircraft to be out of service for routine maintenance or repairs, a substitute vehicle/aircraft meeting the same transport capabilities and equipment specifications as the out of service vehicle/aircraft may be used for a period of time not to exceed 30 days. An unpermitted vehicle/aircraft cannot be placed into service, nor can a BLS vehicle be used at the ALS level unless it is replacing a vehicle that has been temporarily taken out of service for maintenance. When such a substitution is made, the following information shall be maintained by the licensee and shall be accessible to the department:
- identification of permitted vehicle/aircraft taken out of service;
- identification of substitute vehicle/aircraft; and,
- the date on which the substitute vehicle/aircraft was placed into service, the date on which it was removed from service and the date the permitted vehicle/aircraft was returned to service.