Cayman’s police helicopter doubles as air ambulance

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service helicopter now may officially be used as an air ambulance following the completion of training of four of its crew as emergency medical responders. 

The helicopter is fitted with a stretcher, oxygen, a heart defibrillator and other medical equipment. 

Police Commissioner David Baines said the priority of the police would be in saving lives, so in the event of a medical emergency, the helicopter would be sent to deal with that emergency rather than, for example, dealing with a drug bust. 

“The whole purpose of the police is … to protect life and property and it is in that order. Our primary duty is about protecting and saving lives. If the choice was … potentially saving a person’s life or recovering drugs, we save the person’s life and then we go after the drugs after that,” Mr. Baines said.  

So far, two members in each of the two four-man Air Operations crews have been trained. The remaining four will be trained next month. 

Mr. Baines said the impetus for training the helicopter staff was an incident in which the police helicopter was called out to deal with a casualty removal request from Cayman Brac to the hospital in Grand Cayman. Because of the cramped size of the interior of the helicopter and strict criteria for how many people can travel in it while over water in case the helicopter ditches in the sea, no space on board the vessel could be given up for untrained people.  

“If [the helicopter] goes in, we not only have to save the person in the stretcher, but the front crew rely on the back crew to release the life rafts and all the safety equipment. With that in mind, we were somewhat compromised between the ability to deploy without trained staff and a lack of medical staff in there that we’d want to accompany a casualty,” Mr. Baines said. “We’ve overcome that by making sure that EMT ambulance staff are able to work on the helicopter and our staff are able to give first responder medical attention as required so we can fulfil our obligation to the safety of all concerned. This is designed so we can get the right people and the right skills to the most urgent of situations where minutes cost lives or have the potential to save lives.” 

EMT staff from the Cayman Islands Hospital are undergoing helicopter awareness and safety training, which will allow paramedics to be deployed on board the helicopter when necessary. 

The Cayman Heart Fund donated the defibrillator to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Air Operations Unit on Friday, 13 July, as Lizzette Yearwood, chief executive officer of the Health Services Authority, presented certificates for those who completed the emergency medical response course to Police Commissioner Baines. 

“This certification means that our crews now have the capability to provide first response treatment in cases where medical professionals have not yet arrived on scene, are able to access the scene, or need additional support at multiple casualty service provided by paramedics – it will simply enhance and supplement that service for the benefit of the Cayman Islands communities,” Mr. Baines said during a presentation at the Camana Bay helipad. 

Ms Yearwood said the Health Services Authority was pleased to partner with the police to augment Cayman’s emergency response services. “The Helicopter Medical Service with air operations officers who are cross trained in emergency medical procedures, will result in a faster time to scenes that are difficult to access by road, and thereby giving victims a better chance of survival.” 

The nearest helipad to the hospital is at the Owen Roberts International Airport and the helicopter can also land at the cricket field by Crewe Road. 

The four helicopter crew who completed the 58-hour course – Neil Mohammed, Ronnie Pollard, Steve Day and Danny McIlhagga – can now perform CPR, assist in childbirth, manage muscle, bone, head and spine injuries, and deal with mass casualty and triage. 

Dr. Sook Yin, director of the Cayman Heart Fund, said the automated external defibrillator would enable the helicopter crew to resuscitate a collapsed victim with sudden cardiac arrest. “The AED is a vital link in restarting the heart in these cases,” Dr. Yin said. 

RCIPS Helicopter EMT lineup

From left, foreground, Dr. Sook Yin, Police Commissioner David Baines and Lizzette Yearwood, with police helicopter and EMS staff. – PHOTOS: NORMA CONNOLLY

RCIPS Helicopter EMTs

Police helicopter crew demonstrate dealing with an emergency casualty case. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY