Air Ambulance Mission under Challenging COVID-19 Conditions
Marm Assistance’s Medical Evacuation and Repatriation services department organizes bed to bed patient transfers with medical escorts including the management of all regular and unexpected medical and logistical assistance until the final destination is reached.
The patient ( 45 y/o male) was admitted in a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan due to symptoms similar with COVID-19 infection, in contrast to negative COVID-19 PCR test result, which was performed 10 days prior to the mission. Condition of the patient was deteriorating day by day. As local hospitals could not provide adequate management due to limited capabilities, the patient needed to be evacuated to an adequate facility in Istanbul, Turkey.
Extra requirements of some air ambulance companies due to COVID-19 situation includes;
COVID-19 PCR test result, performed in 48 hours prior to the mission.
As known, in case of positive COVID-19 tests the patient should be transferred in isolation stretcher to prevent the spread of pathogens and reduce health care provider infection rates.
Unfortunately, the test result could be obtained at earliest in a week in current circumstances in Kabul.
The patients condition could be deteriorated any time to the point where the patient was not transportable anymore and this delay put us under great pressure. While we were looking for the fastest solutions, we were informed by the agreed air ambulance company, that they have cancelled the flight and replaced with another flight on their schedule.
Without a moment’s delay our team started to look for a new flight options within the vast Marm Assistance network. As a good development patients family was able to have COVID-19 test to be performed and negative result was in hands.
As air ambulance company started to work on necessary landing permissions, it came out that working schedule of ground services and custom police in Kabul Airport has changed due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, our aircraft could not land to Kabul Airport at nighttime as planned. The matter was solved after contacting the local authorities and finally everything was set for the mission.
Transfer went smooth and the air ambulance landed to Istanbul airport without any technical or medical drawbacks and the patient was delivered to the center of excellence within Marm Assistance network. He was kept in ICU for 2 days and completed his treatment in less than 10 days after which was discharged.
Difficulties and unexpected drawbacks are very much likely to occur during the missions, especially in current COVID-19 situation.
As may be evident from the above experience, adaptation to unconventional situations and divergent thinking, especially when confronted with life saving evacuations, are abilities essential in this industry.
Mass coordinated efforts, involving the private and public sectors as well as local points of contact are vital in being able to successfully run a complicated mission.
Furkan Cemal Yıldız
Marm Assistance, Turkey