AeroMD was founded in November 2014 on the Island of St Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands. Some of the founding group had personally experienced loss of life due to the extended time required for off-island air ambulances to arrive in the Caribbean, according to Allan Adler, Vice-President of Business Development for the company. They wanted to make sure other people didn’t have to go through the same experience. He explained: “With small islands scattered throughout the region, the founders of AeroMD had a mission to offer a superior transport option to residents and visitors facing medical emergencies. Many medical cases are simply outside the technological capacity of the infrastructure in the Caribbean, so having a medical exit strategy is paramount.”
Dr Brendan Anzalone, President and Chief Medical Officer of AeroMD, added: “AeroMD was about a vision of deploying a far forward, fixed wing, critical care capability. It had to be close to those in need – in the most remote areas of the Caribbean.”
In the beginning, AeroMD utilised two leased aircraft: a Learjet 35 and a King Air 200, and while its aircraft weren’t owned, the team considered it of the utmost importance to employ a full-time medical staff who were on-island and available around the clock. Meanwhile, trust had to be built with medical providers on the islands. “The initial challenge for the AeroMD team was to form relationships and build rapport within the Caribbean medical community,” said Dr Anzalone. “Without having a local option for air ambulance previously, there was a lack of awareness that medical evacuations could be completed on the same day. There were also cultural differences and language barriers on a multitude of international islands across the region.”
AeroMD now employs 40 people, inclusive of strategic aviation support, a communications team and contractors. Through a strategic partnership with Bohlke International Airways on St. Croix, the air ambulance firm currently operates up to three aircraft, one of which allows it to transport two patients simultaneously. The primary air ambulance platform is a Citation Bravo, along with a Citation II and a Gulfstream G100 with dual patient configuration.
Generally, the AeroMD team finds itself flying every day, steadily meeting air ambulance demands in the region. “While our foci of air ambulance operations are in the Caribbean and the Americas, worldwide operations are possible through our international provider partners,” said Adler.
All types of critical care/emergent cases can be transported by AeroMD, from pediatric to geriatric patients. The medical team is extensively trained to handle any case, but the most frequent patients are ones experiencing cardiac or neurological issues.
Dr Anzalone said: “Prior to the existence of AeroMD in the Caribbean, a patient would have numerous care teams: local hospital; outbound ground ambulance; air ambulance; inbound ground ambulance; and admitting hospital. The air ambulance team members would come from off-island and often had never worked together. With AeroMD, our local care teams meet patients at the hospital where they are initially assessed. That team remains by the patient’s side until they have briefed the team at the destination medical facility.
Our teams work and train together every day, enabling them to provide streamlined and consistent patient care at the highest level
Our teams work and train together every day, enabling them to provide streamlined and consistent patient care at the highest level.”
AeroMD requires its medical employees to have three years of critical care experience at a major institution. Ideal team candidates come from a mix of pre-hospital/in hospital medicine with prior air medical transport experience. According to Dr Anzalone, many medical team members also work at a hospital, most in the emergency room or intensive care unit, while several also instruct medical certification courses. Furthermore, team members undergo on-island training sessions and attend an annual training camp on the US mainland, with a focus on scenario-based simulation and critical procedure training. So currency and best practice are always at the forefront for the AeroMD team.
A new start
As AeroMD grows steadily, it is building a base of members in the Caribbean community and beyond. Upcoming plans include opening satellite offices, international business development and expansion into remote medicine. Plans for expansion include the employment of William (Alex) Franklin, who recently joined the AeroMD family as flight programme director.