Visitors to Hout Bay harbour witnessed the Red Cross AMS (Air Mercy Service) helicopter inaction last week when it landed in the parking lot behind the NSRI building to transport a critically ill cardiac patient to Groote Schuur hospital.
The emergency began when the crew of the local Metro ambulance A26, Shane Rickson, Lance Adams and James Bodmer were sent to the Hangberg clinic to collect a seriously ill cardiac patient. On arrival, the clinic staff and resident doctor were desperately trying to stabilise the patient and a decision was made to request a helicopter to speed up her transfer to hospital. Few people are aware that even if the victim does not have medical aid, free emergency medical evacuation vacuation by air is available, provided certain criteria are met. “We have a very good working relationship with Metro and share an ambulance base with them next to the clinic in Main Road,” said a volunteer from Hout Bay Volunteer EMS. “We were asked to provide support for clearing and safeguarding the landing zone (LZ) for the helicopter. I don’t think there are many places in South Africa where a simple broadcast on the radio can have volunteers mustered and clearing a LZ, within 10 minutes. “Although AMS is a separate entity, they are contracted by the provincial department of health, who call on their services for these kinds of transfers and mountain rescues. The provincial department of health has an allocated budget for air transfers, so you don’t have to be rich to fly first class, just critically ill. ‘The criteria for an aerial transfer are strict – the patient has to be stable, because doing CPR in the confines of a helicopter would be very difficult. “When we loaded the patient into the helicopter she was conscious and her eyes were focusing on people around her. ‘To the best of my knowledge, the woman, a resident of the Hangberg, had a pre-existing cardiac history and went for help to the clinic when she started experiencing severe chest pains. ‘The most important point, I think, is the quality of service given to someone who had no medical aid. Government services are often criticised for bad service and not delivering to the community.
Date: 20 July 2012