New Delhi, Jan 6: In keeping with global trends, helicopters are now being eyed as air ambulances to provide emergency medical aid and ferry patients to hospitals across India.
A beginning has been made with Delhi-based OSS Air Management acquiring two AugustaWestland AW-109’s for starting the first helicopter ambulance service in Bangalore by the middle of this year.
“We have recently bought two choppers for a pilot project to deploy them for medical services in Bangalore. We have tied up with a well known hospital there — Vydehi,” OSS Air chief executive V.Krishnan told IANS.
“We will see how this project works for the future expansion of this market segment,” he added.
Helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) have been known to save countless lives the world over, especially due to their role in disaster relief operations, rescuing victims of road accidents and those critically injured in other incidents.
In India, air ambulance services have been around for more than a decade but these are operated with single or twin-engined fixed wing aircraft. Using helicopters gives the air ambulances greater flexibility as they can travel to remote areas and operate from unprepared or semi-prepared helipads.
“The helicopters will be modified with medical care equipment, space for stretchers and seating for para-medic staff and even one family member,” Krishnan said.
The world over the concept of HEMS works in tandem with the government’s emergency services, hospitals and insurance providers. Around 2,000 HEMS air ambulances are in operation in the world today.
“In India, we are at an initial stage, there are many possibilities like tie-ups between hospitals, highway authorities, insurance companies. The government also has a huge role in this,” Krishnan added.
For the pilot project, facilities like the helipad, residences for the pilots and the fuel charges will be provided by Vydehi hospital. OSS Air Management will supply the pilots and the helicopters and look after the maintenance of the machines.
Helicopter manufacturers are upbeat about the HEMS concept taking root in India.
“Look at the United States, they have 800 helicopters in operation for these type of services. There is tremendous opportunity in this sector in India,” said K.V.Kunhikrishnan, a retired Indian Air Force group captain who is the India general manager of AgustaWestland Support Services.
The segment is expected to grow to 15-25 choppers within 3-4 years, and further growth could be expected as the development of infrastructure and other mechanisms are put in place for the sector, K.V.Kunhikrishnan pointed out.
The HEMS segment will be one of the major growth drivers in the future, said Eurocopter India chief executive Marie-Agnes Veve.
“We are looking at this segment as it has the potential to grow further. HEMS is one of the key part of our growth strategy and goals till 2015,” Veve said. –(IANS)