Zimbabwe is well-positioned to service all of southern Africa, as the country is surrounded by Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Angola, Botswana, the DRC and South Africa. The region attracts over 10 million visitors per year, most of whom will visit wildlife and safari areas that are primarily situated in remote underpopulated districts that lack medical facilities. “The sheer size of the territory we cover sets us apart from other air ambulances,” says Peter Flemmer. “Our aim is to provide a national emergency service in Zimbabwe that guarantees response to medical emergencies by suitably qualified medical personnel in suitably equipped medical transport within internationally accepted response times.”
At inception, ACE’s intention was to provide an aeromedical service that could draw on the local population for expertise and create careers in Zimbabwe, where the unemployment rate is currently 90 per cent. In 2015, the company established an internationally accredited training school that trains professionals and non-professionals alike. Flemmer explains: “With our recent introduction of the safari-tailored course, hunters, guides and safari operators can access emergency care training. We have taken the school into the safari settings to equip staff with the skills to ensure their guests are taken care of in these harsh environments. To date, our reach spans over 14,000 people who have been trained.”
Medical response adapted to patients
The ambulance service set up its own database of cross-border ports, airstrips, roads and medical facilities in the region, based its own observations and a network of reliable local contacts who report on the conditions and risks associated with each area, which the service uses to plan its missions effectively. This is invaluable in ensuring the most effective modes of transport and medical response are allocated according to the patient’s requirements.
Fixed- and rotary-wing assets
The service’s air ambulance fleet consists of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The helicopters include the Airbus (Eurocopter) AS350 and a Bell 407. The fixed wing fleet consists of the Beechcraft King Air 350, 200 and 90. The King Airs are fitted with Blackhawk conversions, which are geared for the challenging environment in which the service operates, particularly the short fields and non-paved runways. competitors in the region,” says Flemmer. “This expansion has allowed us to fill a gap in the much-needed humanitarian assistance that our market very often calls for.”
In March 2019, Cyclone Idai ravaged the Mozambique coast and civilians, and then demolished the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. The carnage and humanitarian crisis this storm left behind prompted UN officials to categorize Idai as ‘one of the deadliest storms in the southern hemisphere’. Flemmer comments: “The commendable humanitarian efforts of the ACE employees during this rescue operation clearly demonstrate the heartfelt mission and vision of our company.”
Growing despite Zimbabwe's challenges
Despite the overwhelming social and economic challenges that Zimbabwe can present, ACE Air & Ambulance has managed to grow in the industry to become a highly trusted and respected international service provider. Flemmer adds: “In the face of shortages of currency, fuel, electricity, medical supplies and drugs, we have maintained the highest level of standards. As a result of this commitment to excellence, ACE was EURAMI accredited within its first year of operation, with reaccreditation issued this year.”
In 2017, the company was granted Preferred Provider status by the International Assistance Group and was also a finalist for the Air Ambulance Company of the Year Award from AirMed&REscue’s sister magazine, the International Travel & Health Journal. In 2019, ACE was nominated as a finalist for the IAG Corporate Responsibility Award.
“Our dedication and commitment to maintaining the highest international standards of air ambulance service, no matter what local conditions and challenges may occur, sets us apart from other services. We are the only air ambulance service in our region that can respond as quickly with the highest-qualified medical personnel and equipment available. We have built up our own knowledge base of the remote areas of our region, covering airstrips, roads, medical facilities, and ports of entry. Our competitors can simply not reach Zimbabwe’s remote areas as rapidly, accurately and with the quality of medical staff and equipment, as we can,” concludes Flemmer.