What is an air ambulance?

Air medical services is a comprehensive term covering the use of air transportation, airplane or helicopter, to move patients to and from healthcare facilities and accident scenes. Personnel provide comprehensive pre-hospital and emergency and critical care to all types of patients during aeromedical evacuation or rescue operations aboard helicopter and propeller aircraft or jet aircraft.

The use of air transport of patients dates to World War I, but its role was expanded dramatically during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Helicopters are used to transport patients between hospitals and from trauma scenes; fixed-wing aircraft are used for long-distance transport.

Air Ambulances In Africa

Air ambulances are particularly important in Africa due to reasons like poor road infrastructure, few specialist doctors and long distances between specialist medical hospitals. The Flying Doctors Nigeria works throughout West and Central Africa trying to mitigating these problems.

Nature of air ambulance evacuations

Some air ambulance evacuations are national; just within a particular country, others are regional between countries in a specific regions e.g Liberia to Ghana and then many others are international requiring many hours of intensive care by specialist doctors.

In 2013, one of our first international evacuations was 13 hours longer, complicated by the fact that Libya was a no-fly zone. The fact we could not fly over Libya required us to change our routing making the journey longer.

Air Ambulance Transfer of critically unwell patients

Our patient was critically unwell; on a ventilator (breathing machine) as well as other life support drugs and equipment.

It was complex, but with the correct specialist team on board and adequate pre-flight checks and stabilization; patient was delivered safety to hospital in the destination country.

Read our doctors report of the air ambulance evacuation here.