Medical flight professionals function in an atmosphere of uncertainty today where what seems like an unknown illness can be a highly infectious disease, especially with the flu season and infections like Novel Coronavirus making rounds. In this context, how can they ensure their safety while caring for the sick? The question beckons some thought and also a few precautions to remain safe. Difficulty breathing, fever, and cough can be reason enough to take the precautions that we discuss below. The idea is for medical flight personnel to remain prepared to avoid any unforeseen eventualities.
Precautions to be Taken by Medical Flight Professionals
The foremost thing to do is to handle bodily fluids such as blood, vomit, and diarrhea with utmost caution. In this regard, hand washing is very important. Washing hands often when in contact with patients with respiratory difficulty is advisable. Soap is effective, but alcohol-based cleaning agent, which contains at least 60% alcohol is also advised. Care must be taken to not touch the nose, eyes, or mouth with unwashed hands. Medical flight professionals must make ample use of disposable gloves while handling patients. These must be disposed of carefully in biohazard bags. It must be kept in mind that hands are washed even after removing the gloves.
Other Precautions that are Necessary
In areas that are known to have even the smallest number of infected patients, medical flight professionals must make use of bodysuits that are certified to insulate from infections. Since it is suspected that Novel Coronavirus can be aerosolized, it is wise to wear a facemask as a form of protection. Also, the number of personnel coming in direct contact with the sick should be minimized, although it is impossible to completely eliminate this possibility. Most importantly, one should be well-versed with the precautions put forth by the CDC.
As far as neonates or newborns are concerned, medical air transportation is always considered a last resort, mainly due to the frailty of the infants. However, sometimes, medical air transportation becomes inevitable due to certain emergency treatments and diagnostics, which can mean the difference between life and death. Here are a few factors that need to be considered before availing medical air transportation.
Arranging Medical Air Transportation
Of course, if it’s an emergency, that demands an air ambulance, the treating physician would ask for it. Even if it’s not asked for and you wish to avail it so that the child gets the best care in the quickest possible time, you’d need to consult the treating physician. There are various parameters that the physician would check, before giving his consent for medical air transportation.
Altitude during Medical Air Transportation
There must be a clear understanding of what the change in altitude means for the clinical condition of the neonate. It must be noted that the barometric pressure goes down with the increase in altitude. If the infant has difficulty getting enough oxygen, arrangements must be made beforehand to tackle such situation.
Take off and Landing of the Air Ambulance
Reduced cerebral perfusion during take off and increased cerebral perfusion during landing can pose a health threat to the infant. There is also a possibility of intraventricular bleeding; however, it should be noted that such risks can be completely avoided by competent staff who are trained to handle infants on air ambulances.
Vibrations, Noise and Temperature
Vibrations as such do not pose a threat to the infant but can make securing IV lines and other such medical interventions a bit tedious. Noise can be an issue if any procedure is being performed onboard the medical air transportation vehicle. If the noise is going to increase beyond 125 decibels, special care must be taken to tackle this. There is a possibility of the infant experiencing cold stress. It must be ensured that the infant is in the right thermal environment.
A certified and experienced staff is always a safe bet when transferring a neonatal patient via medical air transportation.