With 13 medical helicopter crashes claiming a record 29 lives in 2008, the air medical industry has come under intense public scrutiny. In response, the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) is conducting a public education campaign to help the public understand the importance of air medical transport in our nation, particularly in rural and other underserved areas.
“Most people don’t realize the life-and-death role that emergency medical helicopters play in our healthcare system,” said Sandy Kinkade, president of AAMS. “But the critically ill and injured are airlifted once every 90 seconds in our nation. That’s why it’s important to have medevac services in places where they are needed—because the life saved might be yours or a loved one’s.”
Kinkade pointed out that in addition to a faster response time, air medical helicopters provide a higher level of medical care than is typically found in ground ambulances. Also, emergency department closures or cutbacks in local community-based ambulance services, especially in hard-to-reach rural areas, have placed greater demand on air medical helicopters.
AAMS understands the air medical accident rate is too high and supports several proposals aimed at making air medical flights safer. These include proposals that all medical night flight operations use night vision goggles (NVGs) or similar enhanced-vision systems, or be conducted strictly under instrument flight rules (IFRs).
Medical helicopters were a focus of attention in Congress this week, as the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing April 22 to explore state regulation and the safety of helicopter emergency medical services.
For more information see the AAMS Web site.