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Dedicated island air ambulance service officially launched

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Meet the team: Gilbert Darrell, centre, and members of the Bermuda Air Ambulance team. From left are Mark Stephens, Trevor Gardener, Jeffrey Borges, Karen Gooden, Gilbert Darrell, April Swan, Cheryl Newman, Chris Miley and Meekai Johansen. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

An island-based air ambulance service that can get patients in need of urgent treatment to the United States in just a few hours has been officially launched.

Bermuda Air Ambulance Ltd flew eight patients to hospitals in the US this month — and believes that as many as 200 people need to be medevacked overseas each year.

It is the first time that there has been a company providing the service on island since 2012.

BAA has a specially kitted-out Learjet 55 with a full medical team on board and can carry out two trips a day if required.

The company’s founder, Gilbert Darrell, said: “This has been a passion of mine. For ten years we didn’t have a service. Without that, Bermudians waited two, three days sometimes for an air ambulance service to come to the island.

“This is a Bermuda service and I want all people in Bermuda to know about it and use it — not having to wait for an aircraft for ever and not have a speedy service to the US.”

Bermuda Air Ambulance has a specially kitted-out Learjet 55. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The project was first developed by Mr Darrell more than two years ago, but take-off was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Flight paramedics Cheryl Newman and Michael Daniel inside the Learjet 55.(Photography by Akil Simmons)

“Now that we’re up and running, Bermuda doesn’t have to wait any more for a fast aviation experience to the US.

“A stroke patient has about a 75 per cent chance of improvement if they get definitive care within eight hours. So from activation, we can be up in the air in two to three hours.

The cockpit of the specially kitted-out Learjet 55 being used by by the Bermuda Air Ambulance service. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“We can get them to Lahey or Johns Hopkins, Mass General — these are hospitals that are on Bermudians’ minds when they’re getting overseas care.

Flight paramedic Chris Miley inside the specially kitted-out Learjet 55. (Photography by Akil Simmons)

“We can bring patients there very quickly and the outcome will be much better if they can get definitive services quickly, which is what we provide.”

Mr Darrell acknowledged that the service was not cheap, but he had teamed up with the island’s three insurance companies — CG, Argus and BF&M — to make it accessible.

Bermuda Air Ambulance’s Learjet 55. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Another partner was the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association — a charity that assists patients in financial need who have to travel overseas for treatment.

Mr Darrell said: “This is not cheap. We spend $2,300 an hour on fuel and maintenance every time we fly. Jet fuel has just hit $14 a gallon in the US, so fuel’s very expensive. We have to absorb those costs.”

Despite those costs, Mr Darrell said his company would not turn away a patient in a medical emergency if they did not have insurance coverage to foot the bill.

The interior of the Bermuda Air Ambulance Learjet 55. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

He said: “We’re here for Bermuda — both its citizens and the visitors. Let’s make the insurance issue and the pay issue secondary- Let’s get them overseas and get them better healthcare and worry about the paperwork after.”

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Published April 26, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated April 26, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Dedicated island air ambulance service officially launched

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