Netcare 911, a helicopter emergency service (HEMS) launched last year to serve KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape (both provinces of South Africa), has provided invaluable emergency medical care services over the last four months, undertaking over 100 missions.
Netcare 911’s Director of Business Development and Support Services Shalen Ramduth detailed that Netcare 911 is based at Virginia Airport in Durban and Cape Town International Airport and operates twin-engine Bell 222 UT helicopters equipped with intensive care units, which means that teams can ‘rapidly deploy to emergencies’ anywhere within the two provinces: “This enables them to provide the highest levels of pre-hospital care to patients who have been seriously injured in road or other accidents, or whose health has been compromised by, for example, a stroke or heart attack,” he added.
The HEMS team onboard the helicopters – named the ‘Angels of Mercy’ – includes advanced life support paramedics and experienced helicopter pilots and the helicopters are equipped with the latest diagnostic, ventilation, monitoring and other life-support equipment. In conjunction with medical emergency transfers, the aircraft will be used to expedite the safe transfer of intensive care patients – including critically ill infants – between hospitals for specifically required treatment. Ramduth extrapolates: “Once patients are stabilised by the HEMS paramedic team, the helicopters fly them, for definitive specialised care, to the emergency facility or hospital most suited to treat the patient’s particular injuries or medical condition.”
Craig Murphy, the Netcare hospital division’s Coastal Regional Director, said: “Netcare 911 has successfully operated a HEMS service in the Gauteng region for over a decade, where it has a most outstanding track record. We, as the Netcare hospital division, are therefore most grateful that Netcare 911 has extended this service to the country’s coastal regions, where there are all-too-often immense distances involved between the geographic location of emergencies and treatment facilities.”
Ramduth notes that the helicopters have am effective range of some 600km and can reach a maximum speed of 250 km/hr, able to reach patients quickly in far-flung areas. Netcare 911 KwaZulu-Natal Regional Operations Manager Gary Paul adds that, with the ability take off and land vertically, the helicopters can access patients in remote and sometimes difficult-to-reach regions – “For example, where traffic is gridlocked,” he explains.
Paul continues: “We saw the considerable advantages that this can have in the very first mission in which the HEMS was used in KwaZulu-Natal in November 2018. Advanced life support paramedic Phumelele Maphumalo and I were able to quickly reach a patient injured in a motor vehicle accident that had occurred in heavy traffic in Durban. We were able to stabilise the patient and quickly fly them to a Durban trauma facility for further specialised care.”
Lauren Lowenstein, Netcare 911 regional operations manager in the Western Cape, reports that the Cape Town-based HEMS unit has also been in high demand since the inception of the service late last year; missions included rescuing a scorpion sting patient who went into anaphylactic shock in Calvinia in the Northern Cape, transferring a highly vulnerable cardiac arrest patient between Vredenberg hospital on the West Coast to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and evacuating and providing pre-hospital care to a quad-bike-accident patient in the Cederberg.
“The helicopter’s ability to rapidly deploy emergency pre-hospital care teams to even the most difficult to reach areas, means that these Netcare 911 ‘Angels of Mercy’ are proving a most valuable lifeline to patients in their time of greatest need,” Ramduth concludes.