Challenges with Offshore Air Ambulance Evacuation

Aircraft type, fuel reserves and weather conditions are just some of the key challenges when organizing patient evacuations from remote islands or vessels offshore. The technicality, peculiarity of site and patients medical condition are also key considerations when planning medical evacuations.

An Account of a life-saving offshore air ambulance evacuation

Recently our team of medical and aviation crew completed a rotary wing evacuation from the international waters offshore Brass Island in Nigeria. The medevac request came through during the early hours of the day and was confirmed at about 15: 00hrs.

The patient was critically unwell and needed urgent care in an advanced medical facility.

Immediately after we received confirmation, our helicopter was positioned for departure. The medical crew comprised of a senior flight anaesthetist and a flight medic. After two hours of flying navigating to the point of retrieval in the middle of the sea, our medical team got to the retrieval site which is on a vessel some nautical miles away from on-shore. After successfully landing on the vessel helipad, the team gained access to the patient, conducted an initial assessment on the patient then prepared him for transport. There were medical personnel was onboard the vessel, so, unfortunately, the patient had not previously received any medical attention beyond basic first aid. We discovered that the patient had probably suffered a heart attack.

Patient was successfully loaded onto the aircraft ready for takeoff. At the point of takeoff, it was already dark and aviation rules fail to support rotary aircraft flying at night in non-emergency situations. Bearing this in mind, our ground operations in Lagos had already contacted the relevant authority to notify them about the medical emergency and receive a permit that allowed the aircraft  to fly.

 In-flight, the Anesthetist continually monitored patient and administered drugs intermittently as needed.

On arrival in Lagos, patient was handed over to the ambulance team and was successfully transferred to the receiving facility. Patient was then admitted to hospital.

As Nigeria is one of Africa’s major oil and gas producers, we frequently receive requests for offshore, FPSO and swamp location evacuations. This story and many others demonstrate our significant expertise in this area.

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