Air Ambulance Safety: Under the Microscope

Recently I was interviewed for an article, “Air Ambulance Safety: A Closer Look,” which was written by Stephen Pope and featured in the July 2013 issue of Flying Magazine. While Mr. Pope touches on several key concerns regarding air ambulance operations, I felt the article painted too rosy a picture of an industry in need of serious reflection – and change.

Mr. Pope sums up his findings this way:

“When it comes right down to it, these helicopters exist for one purpose: to save lives. And when we look at all of the data, and not just snippets that suit a particular viewpoint, we find that they perform this mission exceptionally well.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t mention the multiple EMS helicopter crashes that have taken place this year. Slack & Davis represents families of victims involved in several of these crashes. Their concerns about what happened to their loved ones deserve to be acknowledged – by the reporter and by the industry.

One key concern that I described in the article:

“… Slack subscribes to a growing philosophy even within the EMS community that pilots should be kept out of the medical-information loop, so that a go, no-go decision is never based on a situation where, say, the patient is a child who is unlikely to survive unless he or she reaches a hospital quickly. The only choice the pilot should make is whether it’s safe to accept the flight. He should not assess the condition of the patient. Slack goes a step further, arguing that first responders at the scene shouldn’t be allowed to call for a helicopter either, because their judgment may be clouded as well. The final call about whether to transport a patient by air or ground ambulance, he says, should only come from a doctor at the hospital.”

There are other vital issues facing the helicopter EMS industry. I encourage readers and website visitors to review these documents to get a more complete analysis: