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Thu, Sep 04, 2008

AAMS Reminds Public Of Importance Of Air Medical Services

Notes Medevac Aircraft Critical To Gustav Evacuation, Return

While the industry's reputation has been tarnished in recent months by a spate of tragic accidents, including a fatal helicopter downing last weekend... the Association of Air Medical Services notes medevac aircraft are vital for saving lives, particularly during times of national crisis.

For example, the AAMS says air medical services participating in the evacuation of hospitals and other medical facilities before the arrival of Hurricane Gustav transported more than 150 patients utilizing more than 60 helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, and are currently gearing up to return many of those patients to Gulf Coast cities in the wake of the hurricane.

Air Medical transports, utilizing both helicopter and fixed wing assets, transported patients very long distances as the storm approached, and continued aiding in evacuation efforts until the weather deteriorated to unsafe levels.

Numerous air medical services representatives stated that state and federal coordination of the evacuation and the disaster response is considerably improved. Both state disaster management plans and the federal ambulance disaster response contract were activated, providing various facilities with options for transport. While the systems in place are vastly improved, there were some constraints as many facilities decided to evacuate shortly before the hurricane made landfall.

Air-medical providers performed numerous helicopter transports of ICU and emergency department patients, including transports by pediatric/neonatal specialty teams to move children and infants born prematurely.  As communities and infrastructures return to normal, air-medical providers and their ground EMS colleagues are assisting with the return of patients.

"The coordination of air-medical assets is much better than in the past, however, there are still areas of improvement that have been identified," said Shawn Salter, Director of Clinical Operations, San Antonio AirLIFE, one of the many air medical services involved in the Texas evacuation. "Following the wrap-up of Hurricane Gustav efforts, an after-action review will provide an opportunity for continued improvement."

Coordinating with state EMS offices and according to existing disaster management plans, many of which developed following the tremendous air medical response to Hurricane Katrina, air medical services are an indispensable component of evacuation and recovery efforts. Transporting the sickest and most critically injured individuals, air medical services can provide a high level of care over much longer distances in a much shorter amount of time than ground ambulances, an important asset when moving already critical patients from oncoming danger.

Air medical services demonstrated this ability in the evacuation and response to Hurricane Gustav... and continue to prepare for the probable landfall of Hurricanes Hannah and Ike.

FMI: www.aams.org

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