The first Cayman-based air ambulance service will start evacuating patients as early as next month, when a U.S. company begins offering medical services to all local hospitals.
Aitheras Aviation Group will provide the service to the Health Services Authority, Health City Cayman Islands and Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital.
Having an air ambulance service on island means a quicker turnaround time for transporting patients, which could mean saving lives, said Mitch Stanaland, the company’s operations manager.
“When you are talking about a cardiac or stroke event, time is muscle. The longer a patient has to wait, the worse the outcomes are,” said Mr. Stanaland.
“Having an air ambulance here will be able to decrease the mortality and morbidity of the Cayman people.”
Prior to such service on island, health officials relied on air ambulances from the United States to evacuate patients in need of emergency care, which took anywhere between three to eight hours, said Mr. Stanaland. Now, he said, a patient will be able get overseas care in under two hours. Mark Scotland, former health minister and now a director of Aitheras Aviation Group, said he first met with the company last September.
“The company was interested in establishing a presence here, and I was introduced to them through a mutual acquaintance, long after I was a minister in government,” he said. “Since then, we worked together to establish the business here.”
A Cessna Citation Ultra V jet is stationed at Island Air at the Owen Roberts International Airport and will be available to transport patients around the clock, seven days a week.
The 17-foot-jet is equipped to carry up to two patients at a time, including two medical personnel, two pilots and “all the necessary gear to take care of the patient from one hospital to the next,” said Mr. Stanaland. Another Citation jet will be positioned in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a back-up unit.
“Historical volumes indicate we don’t need a second plane here right now,” said Mr. Stanaland. “We are expecting about two flights a week.” This works out to roughly 270 flights per year.
CINICO health insurance paid slightly more than $800,000 for 71 medical evacuations during the financial year ending July 2012. That represents a fraction of the total number of evacuations with private insurance companies.
Mr. Stanaland said the air ambulance company would be able to offer its services to local insurance providers for “less than it has customarily been done for [in the past].”
Mr. Scotland said the reduced turnaround time would also contribute to financial savings. “… Someone who gets care seven hours earlier is going to cost less [to insurers] overall than someone who had to wait seven hours to get care.”
The company has partnered with Cayman Air Medical Services, which is owned by Dr. Steve Tomlinson, to train local hospitals’ staff as medical personnel on a part-time basis for the company. The air ambulance staff will include paramedics, registered nurses and doctors, according to Mr. Scotland.
“Right now we have 18 persons to work on an as-needed basis to fulfill a roster,” he said.
Lizzette Yearwood, CEO of the Health Services Authority, said in a statement Wednesday, “The HSA welcomes support from any provider in the community … as we work together to provide life-saving attention to our people.” Mr. Scotland said that while there has been a decline in the air ambulance figures due improvements in the medical care, there will always be a need for emergency air services.
Aitheras Aviation Group, which is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, operates a fleet of 13 aircraft designed for medical transport.