Saturday May 18, 2024

A look at air ambulance services successfully running worldwide

Chennai, with an estimated 12,500 hospital beds, attracts about 45% of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40% of domestic health tourists

By Sabir Shah
April 19, 2024
A look at air ambulance services successfully running worldwide

LAHORE: Some 34 months after one of her predecessors, Usman Buzdar, had announced to launch “Rescue Air Ambulance Service” in the province to repatriate the sick and injured patients, the incumbent Punjab Chief Minister, Maryam Nawaz, has pledged to launch this facility in June 2024 so that it serves as a lifeline for individuals facing critical health crises.

Archives show that on August 23, 2021, the-then Punjab chief minister, Usman Buzdar, had directed the government functionaries to finalise all matters pertaining to the air ambulance service, but then the project had hit somehow snags and there was deafening silence on the issue until Maryam Nawaz categorically announced a few days ago that the country’s first air ambulance service would be operational in June 2024 to transport patients in need of medical care through aircraft and helicopters specially outfitted for the purpose.

Research conducted by the “Jang Group and Geo Television Network” shows that Pakistan is decades behind the world in providing medical air transportation facility to its people.

As technology continues to advance and regulatory hurdles are being addressed, the international landscape of air ambulance services is poised to improve, ultimately saving more lives and ensuring that medical emergencies receive the swift response they demand.

A recent February 2024 report of Messrs “SkyQuest Technology Group,” a global market intelligence, innovation management and commercialisation organisation having offices in the United States, Hong Kong and India, reveals: “Air Ambulance Services Market size was valued at US$ 15.73 billion in 2021 and is poised to grow from US$ 17.4 billion in 2022 to US$ 43.08 billion by 2030, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.6 percent between 2023 and 2030.”

In neighbouring India, by March 31, 2022, India’s travel healthcare sector is estimated to be over US$9 billion, according to the “Hindustan Times,”49 air ambulances were being operated by 19 operators.

Quoting the Indian Minister of State for Civil Aviation, V K Singh, a key media house “NDTV” had reported: “Only 49 air ambulances are currently being operated in India by 19 operators. Around 4,100 patients have hired the ambulances during the last three years. Air ambulance services are available in rural areas on a need and availability basis. While Delhi has 39 air ambulances, Maharashtra has five, Kerala has two and Odisha, West Bengal and Gujarat have one each.”

By the way, one of these private Indian operators Messrs “Air Rescuers” claims on its website that it has transported over 10,000 patients over the previous 24 years, and as international air ambulance for 16 years, it has repatriated over 1,000 patients around the world.

In one of its reports, The “Hindustan Times” had maintained: “Approximately 2 million patients visit India each year from 78 countries for medical, wellness and other treatments, generating $6 billion for the industry which is expected to reach $13 billion by 2026 backed by the government’s ‘Heal in India’ initiative.”

According to the The Hindu, Times of India and BBC, India has 839 government-approved quality hospitals and the city of Chennai, India’s health capital, caters to the needs of 150 international patients daily.

Chennai, with an estimated 12,500 hospital beds, attracts about 45 percent of health tourists from abroad arriving in the country and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists.

London’s Air Ambulance has attended more than 38,000 missions since its inception in 1989.

In 2017, London’s Air Ambulance attended 1,797 patient missions and three major incidents and 292 other incidents on the rail network, industrial accidents, asphyxiation, drowning etc.

United Kingdom’s 21 air ambulance charities receive no day-to-day government funding and depend almost entirely on charitable donations to deliver their lifesaving care. On average, an air ambulance can reach someone in urgent need within 15 minutes. In the United States, the American Air Ambulance and its service providers have flown over 72,000 patients worldwide since 1986.

The Luxembourg-based European Air Ambulance flies to an average of 80 countries every year, on almost 1,000 missions, and can reach nearly every country. The Luxembourg Air Ambulance has over 34 years of experience in air ambulance services with medical repatriation experience from over 150 countries worldwide. The average activation time for an urgent mission is just 4 hours.

The European Air Ambulance missions are always crewed with at least one specialised physician and one flight nurse.

Research further shows that the cost of an international air ambulance flight can vary widely depending on the destination country, the distance to be covered, and the specific medical requirements of the patient.

On average, an international air ambulance flight within the United States can range from $50,000 to $150,000 or more. The cost includes various factors such as aircraft availability, medical crew expertise, medical equipment, ground support, and coordination with local healthcare authorities. In many European countries, such as Germany, France, and Switzerland, physician-staffed ambulances are relatively common. In the United States, physician-staffed helicopters are utilised in some regions, particularly in areas with challenging geographic features or for specialised medical transport.

Additionally, countries like Japan and Australia have also implemented physician-staffed emergency medical services. The presence of physicians in pre-hospital care varies widely by region and is influenced by factors such as healthcare infrastructure, population density, and emergency medical service policies.