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How would you like to travel sir, by Land or Air Ambulance?
In the back of our mind we know that one day we may need to be transported in an emergency vehicle. In our mind the process is simple. Dial the emergency number, and a fully medically equipped car commanded by a young ambitious experts in Life Support and Trauma on board, will arrive in no time for your service.
Looking into the issue we might be unaware of the gloomy reality around emergency care.
Most countries would have good or reasonable solutions in the urban areas. Capital and major cities are usually well covered for all kind of emergencies. Well-equipped ambulances have become the pride of the Health Authorities, and the public’s eye catches the convincing look of the fast running light-flashing car on the way to its next lifesaving mission.
The availability of rapid and efficient life support service in rural areas and remote location is another story. In most countries the ability to call for help and also receive it in real time is not very impressing – if you are out of the major cities. Obviously the reasons for it are connected with the huge territories that need to be covered. You cannot have an emergency unit in stand-by at every remote spot. So… are we at risk? Yes. We definitely all are.
The risk is connected to the term EMERGENCY. In medical language, Emergency is about “Circulation and Ventilation”. Circulation means that the body can deliver the flow of oxygenized blood, in a steady way to all organs of the body. Ventilation is about the ability to inhale and exhale to secure the supply of oxygen to the brain and other organs of our body. Any interruption of the above, could be defined as a state of Emergency. From this moment, time is of an essence.
The task of the emergency unit is to arrive to the scene and act immediately, securing the stabilization and the smooth ventilation and circulation. The longer the patient has to wait, the lesser are the chances of survival.
Some countries can be proud of some remarkable achievements of efficient and professional emergency services which are covering remote and difficult to reach locations. In Switzerland, the nonprofit association REGA is providing Air Ambulance and emergency care all across the country. The customers are members of the NGO in charge of providing the service rights through a membership card.
But the Swiss example does not reflect the usual scene. Many countries do not provide proper emergency care at all, others do not cover the areas outside of the major cities. Now, we are not talking about African or Asian countries only. Many European countries cannot claim any fame when dealing with their emergency service. The situation goes worse as we scan the matter from West to East.
In Central and Eastern Europe the wait for Emergency care in rural areas can be a matter of hours. In many cases the arriving vehicle and team will not be competent to deal with many of the different cases or Trauma.
There is no need to go into the debate of the solutions from the point of view of the state. All Ministers of Health know of the problem and its situation. Central and Eastern European countries has started to create Air Ambulance solution that can cover large territories and difficult conditions. Greece has create some solutions for the Islands the services in some are reasonable.
Nice start, but far from being enough. Still – the service will not be available in real time for most patients in need.
Another aspect of the matter is the cost of Air Ambulance for the user. If a patient in Trauma is not one of the lucky few to find an immediate available Air Ambulance which its operations are covered by the state health insurance facilities, then the amounts which could be charged might reach scary figures. The charge of a middle size aircraft medically equipped with competent medical team can reach 10,000 Euros per hour of flight, and more.
For the reader, for you! (Yes… for very – YOU!!!) This can mean a crucial outcome of a situation in which you might be involved in a road accident or if you fell into a serious medical problem that necessitates urgent help. If at that time you will be located in a remote area, your best solution is Air Ambulance. Expensive as it may get, it might be the only path that will secure a safe journey with medical care from the scene to a proper medical facility.
This solution cannot work if you are not prepared for it. Looking for an Air Ambulance solution in time of emergency is impossible. The patient who is in a need in such a service will not be able to manage the process of calling, arranging and coordinating and Air Ambulance solution. A Patient in Trauma is usually not able to manage such a process. From years of experience I can say that the management of air Ambulance actions with the medical information around it, is complicated. The reasons for it are medical, legal, operational, cultural, lingual and more. We shall leave the analysis of this section for another article.
So what is the suggested solution? You must find within your country an Air ambulance provider which whom you can create pre-paid solution with. Best would be to cover it with a cross-border insurance policy. The program and the rescue solution should be agreed and written on an Insurance Policy or a Membership card. You should want to pay a reasonable yearly fee to secure that in the case of a medical emergency the provider guarantees to fly you under medical care from the location you are at, to the nearest suitable and capable medical facility. The membership card with the number to call, should be among your documents so it can be rapidly used by yourself, or by others who may want to help in calling for help.
A serious solution would also include the pre-recording of your personal basic medical data. That will save a lot of time and problems when and if you will be in a medical emergency.