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Darrell seeks backers for air ambulance

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A former paramedic and firefighter is to introduce an air ambulance service in case medical staff are overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.

Gilbert “Artie” Darrell said he was looking for an aircraft and investment for the service, which he said could take to the skies inside six months.

Mr Darrell said patients in Bermuda faced a wait of “12 to 24 hours, even 36 hours” to get flown off the island for urgent care in cities such as Boston, New York, Baltimore or Toronto.

He added: “Patients such as people who have had strokes need acute care, and they need to get it quickly.

“With this service, we could be off the ground and flying two hours from getting a phone call. Patients could be admitted to a hospital in New York in four hours.”

A private company, Bermuda Air Medivac, used to fly patients in need of specialised care overseas, but was forced to close for financial reasons in 2013.

The island has since been without a domestic air ambulance service.

Mr Darrell said that “approximately 200 flights leave the island with critically sick patients who cannot receive the needed care in Bermuda” every year.

He added some patients “don't survive the wait or are left with crippling injuries” because of delays in getting an air ambulance to the island.

Mr Darrell said he had held “fruitful” talks with insurance companies, as well as the Government's health insurance department. He added there was a consensus that the need for an air ambulance service would grow, “especially with the ageing population”.

The Bermuda Air Ambulance has been in the works for more than two years.

Mr Darrell said he planned to pick a suitable plane from a shortlist of three — the Nextant 400, a Learjet 45XR or a Citation CJ3+.

He added getting an air operator's certificate should take four to five months.

Mr Darrell said: “As part of our pre-start-up investigation, a final decision will be made alongside aviation and air medical experts.”

Mr Darrell added the coronavirus pandemic that had swept the globe had underlined the importance of the service.

He said that overseas experience of the virus also underlined the need.

Mr Darrell added: “It has been reported that to 20 per cent of cases are severe to critical and need intensive care treatment.”

He warned that Bermuda's limited number of ICU beds, ventilators and staff were at risk of being swamped.

Mr Darrell said: “We have estimated that if Covid-19 were to hit Bermuda's shores, up to 1,000 patients would fit into this critical category in a six-month period.

“This would totally overwhelm the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital's resources and ability to treat these patients.”

Mr Darrell estimated that, depending on the severity of the illness, BAA could transport up to two patients at a time for treatment and that with sufficient staff it could run “two to three missions per day”.

Mr Darrell said the Bermuda Health Council and Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority had been “key” in laying out regulatory requirements.

He added his company was on the hunt for a certified ambulance partner.

Mr Darrell said: “The service also requires highly trained medical staff and pilots. Costs are significant.

“At this point, we have initiated private conversations with potential investors. With secure funding, the company could be up and running in three to six months.”

Potential investors could contact Gilbert Darrell at 519-1409 or by e-mail on artiedarrell@gmail.com

One of the aircraft proposed for an air ambulance service to be introduced this year for Bermuda patients (Photograph supplied)
Interior of a proposed air ambulance service for the island (Photograph supplied)
Seeking support: Gilbert “Artie” Darrell (File photograph)

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Published April 02, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 02, 2020 at 8:42 am)

Darrell seeks backers for air ambulance

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