Categorized | Health

Hawaii Air Ambulance going 24/7 with night vision

HAA/HLF Eurocopter EC 135, Rob White, Chief Helicopter Pilot, HAA/HLF Manager of Rotor Operations, at the controls.

HAA/HLF Eurocopter EC 135, Rob White, Chief Helicopter Pilot, HAA/HLF Manager of Rotor Operations, at the controls.

MEDIA RELEASE

Hawaii Air Ambulance/Hawaii Life Flight

Rob White, demonstrating night vision goggles.

Rob White, demonstrating night vision goggles.

With approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, authorization by the U.S. Department of State and completion of pilot and crew training using night vision goggles, or NVGs, the Hawaii Air Ambulance/Hawaii Life Flight (HAA/HLF) medical helicopter is going 24/7.

To insure maximum safety, the HAA/HLF helicopter program has only operated during daylight hours. As of Feb. 27, the program was authorized by the State Department to use NVGs, becoming a FAA approved Part 135 EMS NVG Program. Upon this authorization, HAA/HLF initiated the NVG qualifying training for pilots and crew.

This training is complete and the helicopter is now available 24/7.

NVGs are manufactured for U.S. government use only, and misuse may pose a threat to national security. The State Department allows only approved programs to obtain, train and subsequently use NVGs. Because of this potentially high security threat, each NVG set is tracked by the State Department throughout the life of the equipment and when not in use, must be kept under a two lock security system.

Developing a NVG approved program is very costly and many ambulance programs or hospital based programs simply cannot afford it. From the very beginning, HAA/HLF had set NVG approval as a goal and only hired pilots with experience flying with NVGs in anticipation of reaching that goal.

Jonathan Sneed, Flight Paramedic, HAA/HLF Training Officer (Center) and Bob Griffith, Flight Nurse, HAA/HLF Chief Flight Nurse (Left), pull the stretcher out of the clam shell back doors of the helicopter.

Jonathan Sneed, Flight Paramedic, HAA/HLF Training Officer (Center) and Bob Griffith, Flight Nurse, HAA/HLF Chief Flight Nurse (Left), pull the stretcher out of the clam shell back doors of the helicopter.

Going 24/7 should greatly increase potential usage of this helicopter on the different islands, especially the Big Island as ground transportation is so limited.

Nona Wilson, Ka’u Hospital’s Director of Nursing for the last four years understands the value of helicopter transports.

Having directed the Kaiser Emergency Department and after-hour clinics for 23 years on Oahu, she has witnessed the benefits of fast responses and site-to-site transfers by helicopters, but noted using the helicopter requires a different mindset from using a fixed-wing aircraft.

“Once the medical community realizes what the helicopter has to offer they’ll start using it,” Wilson said.

Though the helicopter flies only a little over half the speed of the airplanes, that “lost” time in travel is made up as the helicopter has the ability to fly directly to the sending hospital, pick up a patient and then fly directly to the receiving hospital, by-passing all ground traffic.

“Our hospital is the most rural critical care hospital in the state,” Wilson said. “Until now, we had to transport our patients by ground to the community center and then fly them out or ground them all the way to the Hilo airport, 60 miles away and then fly them out. The quicker time definitely affects the outcome of the patient.”

To facilitate helicopter use, Ka’u Hospital has ordered an illuminated wind sock, is lowering some signs and painting a designated landing zone in bright paint in its parking lot.

In addition to saving time on ground transportation, many in the medical community believe transferring a patient by helicopter is less stressful as it doesn’t require as much patient loading and unloading during the transport.

“It is a patient safety issue,” said David Russell, RN, Director of Cardiovascular Services for Maui Memorial Hospital. “Multiple transfers can be detrimental to patient care. And patient care is what it is all about.”

Currently the HAA/HLF helicopter will focus on inter-facility transfers, just like the HAA airplanes based in Hilo, Kamuela, Kahului, and Lihue. In the future, it may be available for scene calls or rescue operations.

Hawaii Air Ambulance has been providing air ambulances services for 30 years. Since coming under new management, Hawaii Air Ambulance / Hawaii Life Flight has increased the number and quality of its aircraft, based these aircraft in close proximity to main hospitals on the different islands to reduce wait times, significantly raised the hiring bar and training for both medical staff and pilots and has acquired state of the art equipment, including this helicopter with NVG authorization.

For more information on HAA/HLF programs, outreach education, or information on the Hawaii Air Ambulance Membership Program, which eliminates member’s deductible and co-payment, check out the Web site at www.hawaiiairambulance.com or call 833-2270.

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