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EuropePMC; 2020.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-312362


Background: COVID-19, the pandemic caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2, is challenging healthcare systems worldwide. Little is known about problems faced by emergency medical services—particularly helicopter services—caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. We aimed to describe the issues faced by air ambulance services in Europe as they transport potential COVID-19 patients. Methods: Nine different HEMS providers across Europe were invited to share their experiences and to report their data regarding the care, transport, and safety measures in suspected or confirmed COVID-19 missions. Six air ambulance providers agreed and reported their data. 385 COVID-19-related missions were analysed, including 119 primary transport missions and 266 interfacility transport missions. Results: All providers had developed special procedures and safety instructions in preparation for COVID-19. Ground transport was the preferred mode of transport in primary missions, whereas air transport was preferred for interfacility transport. In some countries the transport of COVID-19 patients by regular air ambulance services was avoided. Patients in interfacility transport missions had a significantly higher median (range) NACA Score 3 (1-7) compared with 4 (2-5), needed significantly more medical interventions, were significantly younger (59.6±16 vs 65±21 years), and were significantly more often male (73% vs 60.5%). Conclusions: All participating air ambulance providers were prepared for COVID-19. Safe care and transport of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients is achievable. Most patients on primary missions were transported by ground. These patients were less sick than interfacility transport patients, for whom air transport was the preferred method.