Paramedics play an important role in international air ambulance missions, helping to move patients safely home when they become ill or injured while abroad. Canadian Paramedicine recently caught up with Graham Williamson, CEO of LIFESUPPORT Air Medical Services, Inc. to talk about the critical work performed by Paramedics on international air ambulance missions.
According to Williamson, Paramedics are often dispatched on international medical evacuation missions around the world, particularly when the situations are complex and the demands are high. “Paramedics are out-of-hospital experts who complement our multi-disciplinary teams of Critical Care Registered Nurses, Respiratory Therapists and Physicians” said Williamson, himself a licensed Paramedic. “As a Paramedic, I know the valuable skill set that our profession brings to our Air Medical Crews in the international transport environment.”
Paramedics at LIFESUPPORT are paired with a Critical Care Registered Nurse, Respiratory Therapist or Physician on each mission, depending on the care needs of the patient. “We value and appreciate that our Paramedics are expert communicators. They are the ones who really excel when it comes to communicating with dispatch, providing status updates and keeping the team back home apprised of events. This is something that is natural and normal for the Paramedic profession – communicating with dispatch – but not normal for our Registered Nurses who don’t have a dispatch centre when working in the hospital.”
The nature of LIFESUPPORT’s work in the global environment means that Paramedics are often dispatched with little or no notice when a mission arises. “We could be airborne to almost anywhere in the world with only a moment’s notice to plan and prepare for the mission. Our Paramedics work along side other members of the Air Medical Crew to ensure that our equipment is rescue ready, in top working order, that additional supplies, drugs and medications are prepared as needed. We rely on our Paramedics not only to provide patient care, but also to be experts in safe patient handling, loading, lifting and securing.”
LIFESUPPORT’s mission profiles and taskings are complex and dynamic he said. “No mission is ever the same and every tasking is unique, much like an emergency air ambulance scene call or street call” he said. When asked about what kinds of aircraft LIFESUPPORT’s Paramedics may find themselves flying on, Canadian Paramedicine learned that LIFESUPPORT dispatches a variety of aircraft on mission from it’s bases across Canada.
“Our Canadian teams operate from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto” said Williamson. “Vancouver and Calgary tend to serve shorter range air ambulance missions, using the King Air 300. These are short haul missions to the USA, such as to California and Arizona”. From it’s Toronto base, LIFESUPPORT utilizes a Falcon 20 long range medevac jet. “Our Toronto based Falcon 20 is an amazing aircraft” said Williamson. “It has the range – the legs to get us virtually anywhere in the world. Being able to cross the Atlantic with just one technical stop en route to anywhere in Europe provides LIFESUPPORT with significant long range capabilities and the ability to provide better patient care with less fuel stops. “The stand up cabin and on board lavatory are very important on long haul missions” he noted.
When asked about other aircraft that LIFESUPPORT utilizes for it’s global mission profile, Williamson shed some light on the diverse aircraft fleet that LIFESUPPORT’s Paramedics have been called upon to utilize during the pandemic. “As borders close and restrictions have become tighter and tighter, having an ultra long range aircraft that can overfly problematic or closed areas is key to our mission success. We conduct quite a number of security related and high profile evacuation missions on behalf of VIP clients around the world. For these high profile missions, we use ultra long range business jets such as the Gulfstream V or Falcon 7X”
Williamson notes a recent high profile mission where LIFESUPPORT flew a patient from Vancouver to Singapore, with just one stop en route for fuel. “The pilots changed out in Tokyo but the Paramedics kept going!”. Asked what it was like for Paramedics who work on ultra-long range missions, Williamson said it’s not like air ambulance aircraft that they normally use. “These aircraft are staffed with a flight attendant, fully stocked galley, and private bedroom for our Air Medical Crews to rest and sleep in between taking turns caring for the patient”.
About LIFESUPPORT Air Medical Services, Inc.
LIFESUPPORT Air Medical Services is a Canadian based international air ambulance and medical transport firm with base locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Fort Lauderdale Florida and Frankfurt, Germany. LIFESUPPORT is internationally accredited by the European Air Medical Institute and provides air ambulance, emergency transport and out-of-hospital healthcare solutions to insurance companies, governments, hospitals and major corporations.