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Cathy Lizak
Customer Service Representative
Apr 1 2020

Corona Virus: Air Ambulance Safety Update

Air Medical Transport During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 continues to spread worldwide, shutting down entire countries and causing chaos in international travel. Medical transportation has also been greatly impacted. This article provides useful information you may need when considering transferring your loved one by air or ground ambulance.

International Travel

Transportation to and from international destinations continues to change on a daily basis. Some countries have issued outright bans on air transports of any kind. Others are allowing medical air ambulance flights with restrictions, while still others are allowing unrestricted air ambulance transports for now. If you are considering transporting your loved one internationally, please contact us for the latest information.

Because of restrictions imposed on air ambulances by some countries, immediate medical transports may not possible during the Covid-19 crisis from those countries. On all international flights, any person traveling aboard an air ambulance, including patient and passengers, will be required to provide a recent negative Covid-19 test. Unforunately, some countries take days to administer and retrieve results from these tests and this may cause delays.

In addition, international flights often require crews to travel by commercial airlines to pre-position for the trip. During the Covid-19 pandemic, transferring by airline requires isolation of the medical crew for 14 days after the commercial airline flight. This may result in additional delays.

Two other forms of international medical transportation which we provide internationally for more stable patients are commercial airline stretcher and commercial airline escort services. Due to Covid-19, these to forms of medical transportation are unavailable due to the inability of airlines to thoroughly disinfect their aircraft, and also due to the very high transmissibility of the virus in enclosed spaces.

Domestic Travel

Within the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central America and Canada, air ambulance is unrestricted with appropriate screening.

For the duration of the crisis, however, we have suspended all airline medical escort transports, due to the inability of airlines to thoroughly disinfect their aircraft, and also due to the very high transmissibility of the virus in enclosed spaces.

In addition, for ground transportation greater than 4 hours, we are also suspending operations due to high transmissibility during longer durations in confined spaces.

For ground transportation to and from air ambulances, some ground companies will not permit passengers to travel in the ground ambulance, to limit risks to patients and crews. This may impact your travel plans.

Pre-screening

Prior to any transport, we will conduct a thorough screening of patients as well as any passengers that may want to travel with them. This includes discussion with the patient’s family as well as pre-flight documentation from the attending medical staff. It also, in some cases, may require pre-testing for Covid-19 prior to transport.

Some questions that will be asked of the family and medical professionals include:

  1. What are the patient’s symptoms? Do they include a new or worsening cough shortness of breath?

  2. Does the patient have a fever, chills and when did they begin?

  3. Does the patient have a severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or unexplained hemorrhage?

  4. Is the patient a medical worker?

  5. Has the patient been to the Middle East, Europe, West Africa or Asia or on a cruise ship in the past 30 days?

  6. Has the patient had contact with anyone who has traveled outside of the United States in the past 30 days?

  7. Has the patient been exposed to anyone who is suspected to be a carrier of COVID-19 or do you suspect the patient may have Covid-19?

With portions of the United States breaking out into widespread contagion, this list of questions will begin to reflect those changes as well.

Not enough is known about how the virus spreads but it is suspected that Covid-19 mainly spreads by droplets and hand-to -face contamination. However, it could spread by aerosol as well. To limit risk to both patients and to the medical crew, known or suspected persons infected with COVID-19 will not be permitted to travel by air ambulance.

Universal Precautions

For all patients, our crew will use universal precautions during all flights, including N95 respirators and personal protective equipment.

Between every flight, the cabins will continue to be thoroughly cleaned according to CDC guidelines.

We currently are allowing passengers to accompany their patient. This may change as the virus progression worsens throughout the country. For those who can, transferring your patient sooner, before the virus spreads, will ensure against possible disruptions within the air ambulance industry.

Restricted Travelers

Foreign nationals who have visited one of these countries in the past 14 days may not enter the United States:

  • China
  • Iran
  • EU
  • UK
  • Republic of Ireland

Persons who exhibit symptoms of Covid-19 or who have higher potential of being carriers of Covid-19

The CDC has urged residents of NY, NJ and CT to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.

In closing

We are committed to ensure that your loved one is safely transported to their destination. Safe transportation not only includes providing state of the art equipment, professional and caring staff, and strict protocols, but it now demands providing the utmost in safety as it relates to the Covid-19 virus.

We are truly sorry for the interruption in our services of airline medical escort, airline medical stretcher, and long distance ground transportation. We will work to bring back these cost saving options as soon as the safety of our patients and staff allows.

For up to the latest information on transport during this pandemic, please call us at any time and one of our staff will be pleased to speak with you.

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