Amanzimtoti school hosts air ambulance landing site
Kingsway High School’s sports field is now an official landing site for Netcare 911’s new air ambulance, which is deemed a significant development for healthcare on the Upper South Coast, as the helicopter adds an invaluable dimension to emergency medicine. The helicopter, a twin-engined Bell 222, is permanently configured as a mobile intensive care unit with the latest diagnostic, ventilation and monitoring equipment. Since it was first introduced in KZN in December 2018, the helicopter has undertaken more than 50 missions, covering areas as far afield as Newcastle, Richards Bay and Margate owing to its effective range of 600km from its operating base at Virginia Airport. Five of these emergencies were in and around the Amanzimtoti area.
The helicopter is crewed by one pilot for daytime flights and two for night-time flights. Two advanced life support paramedics are at all times present on any flight. As a result the highest level of care is able to be delivered to patients at the scene of emergencies. The helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) is also used for intensive care transfers between hospitals throughout KZN and surrounding provinces.
When deployed to Amanzimtoti, the helicopter lands on a designated landing zone on Kingsway High School’s sports fields, where protocols and procedures have been established to ensure the safety of the staff and pupils. Special precautions have also been maintained to ensure the fields are not damaged during the landing process.
The Bell 222 helicopter, which has not yet had to land on the school fields during school hours, has an impeccable safety record. A Netcare 911 team is always sent to the area in advance to prepare and assist with the landing process and to ensure all safety procedures are fully adhered to.
Kingsway High School’s (KHS) Chris Botha explained that Netcare 911 approached the school last year about the possibility of introducing a safe landing zone to serve the community. Once the decision was finalised, parents were notified about the new landing site. KHS principal Sandra du Toit explained that in the rare case that a landing should take place during school hours, there is a protocol in place which will see pupils and staff move into the school buildings. When the helicopter needs to land on KHS’ field, a minimum of an hour’s advance notice will be given to the school, to allow it to ensure the safety of all.
According to Botha, the helicopter will land on the school’s southern-most corner field during the day. At night, landing is to take place nearer to the school on a field where rugby is played.
Netcare 911’s regional operations manager Gary Paul explained that the helicopter emergency service (HEMS) forms an integral part of the company’s vision of delivering excellent, life-saving care. “This service, which is the region’s only private 24-hour helicopter emergency service, offers a valuable lifeline to the community in their time of greatest need,” he said.
International research demonstrates that decreasing the transfer time from accident to operating theatre has an understandably positive effect on patient outcome. Paul explained that the ability to overcome obstacles, that might hamper ground-based emergency teams, makes the HEMS an invaluable one.
“Helicopters can travel in a straight line between points and are not hampered by traffic or other obstructions. They can travel about three kilometres in about the same time a ground emergency vehicle with its sirens on can travel a single kilometre. Besides getting a patient to hospital more quickly, this can also be advantageous in a disaster situation when there are a number of patients, as the helicopter can take them to more distant hospitals preventing the nearest emergency facility from becoming overburdened,” explained Paul.
While the HEMS is a great asset to the area, helicopters are not appropriate to use in all emergencies. “Often a ground unit can get to a nearby hospital more quickly or there may be no suitable place to land a helicopter. At times the weather can also make it impossible to land or even fly a helicopter,” said Paul. “Anyone may request the HEMS as soon as they recognise the need to do so. All flights are assessed and authorised, and dispatch guidelines and internationally accepted flight criteria determine which patients will benefit most from transportation by helicopter. This ensures that the service is appropriately used at all times.”
Netcare 911 extended gratitude to Kingsway High School for allowing the opportunity to use the school field when needed: “We will at all times ensure that impeccable safety precautions are followed to ensure minimum impact on the learners, staff and the property itself.”
Source: South Coast Sun