European Air Ambulance has launched a specialist Infectious Disease Unit that allows the transport of patients with infectious diseases to a standard of MEDEVAC capability more commonly seen in military forces.
The new unit has been especially developed by air ambulance technology specialist AAT and leading manufacturer of decontamination equipment and personal protective equipment VersarPPS. It was designed to meet European Air Ambulance protocols and can be quickly installed in its Learjet 45XR air ambulances.
The unit consists of a special low weight, ergonomic and versatile modular tent system with full EASA certification and configuration flexibility. The interior tent’s PVC is not only flame resistant; it has been tested against tearing when overstretched and is impermeable to biofluids and infectious agents.
Designed to transport one patient at a time, the tent has a negative pressure enclosure, which totally separates the patient from the aircraft and crew. The patient enters the tent via a foldable airlock. This forms a tunnel through which the patient can walk, if ambulatory, or can be transferred by iso-pod. This means that at no point is the patient in direct contact with the aircraft. The airlock is stored away and the unit sealed during the flight.
Once inside the tent, the patient can sit up, and move freely. The mission team will have ensured that the tent is provided with the necessary medical equipment as well as food and drink required for the patient.
A disposable toilet inside the tent is also available. All body fluids are solidified using special chemicals. After the mission, this is incinerated together with all equipment with which the patient has been in contact. The Personal protective equipment used by crew during the embarkation and disembarkation of the patient is put into separate containers, disinfected, put into another container, disinfected again and then into separate special bags to be incinerated upon arrival.
The aircraft is also equipped with an FFP3 filtration unit, running on 12 cycles per hour as recommended by the CDC. Once the patient is installed in the unit, access is available to medical crew via 8 PVC sleeves. The crew also uses additional gloves and Tychem sleeves, to provide at least two layers of protection. Hermetic ports allow cables to access the patient for constant monitoring of non-invasive blood pressure, O2 saturation, electrocardiogram, and temperature. These ports can also be used to provide an IV if necessary. Specially dedicated and trained crew, from pilots to medical teams and technical and logistical personnel are available for Infectious Disease Unit missions. Aircraft are available on request and ready to leave between 4 and 12 hours after activation, depending on the overflight and landing permits and also on how fast mission control has received the comprehensive medical information required to conduct the mission effectively. A second aircraft in Ebola module configuration is placed on stand-by with a pilot and crew at home base, ready to take off immediately in case there is a technical problem with the first aircraft. This means EAA is also able to conduct wing-to-wing transfers. The new unit was first tested in March 2015, when a flight organised by the Luxembourg government transported a British national from Sierra Leone to the United Kingdom as a precaution for assessment and monitoring. The operation was part of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, in whose Voluntary Pool Luxembourg participates with two Luxembourg Air Ambulance (LAA) aircraft.
The Infectious Disease Unit illustrates EAA’s ability to provide cutting edge aeromedical solutions and is compatible with its commitment to continue to improve and broaden its range of services worldwide.
IDU equipment and details Read about our first Ebola mission