Just a few days into Covid-19 crisis lockdown, Westpac Rescue Helicopter Crewman Colin experienced his first mission with a patient potentially infected with the virus.
In addition to normal procedures at Life Flight, a new and crucial layer has been added to ensure our teams are protected with the right training to deal with Covid-19 cases. This particular call-out was a key learning experience for Colin and the team and has helped shape Life Flight’s response to later Covid-19 related missions. “We were on very high alert. Numbers were still going up.” Colin said. The Life Flight team continue to evolve procedures as the situation develops to ensure the safety of patients and crew.
With the patient not in a conscious enough state, and their medical history not known at the time Life Flight’s Westpac Chopper was called, the team couldn’t take any risks. The response in this scenario is to follow procedure and anticipate that the patient tests positive with Covid-19.
Both paramedic and crewman in full PPE gear loaded the patient, who is also wearing a mask, and assisted in the patient handover on the roof of Wellington Hospital following strict protocol.
The biggest task is the cleaning of the aircraft and personnel involved post-mission. It takes a few hours to have all surfaces cleaned thoroughly, including the medical equipment used, with certain products specifically approved by the helicopter manufacturer.
A specially-trained assistant crew member is brought in to help with this rigorous decontamination process. A clean crewman at base is tasked with backing the helicopter into the hangar so the tug is also not at risk of exposure to the virus.
Removal of PPE gear is just as methodic, with the used gear placed in hazard bins and all flight gear immediately washed at base followed by a shower.
The Life Flight aeromedical teams are treating every mission with caution, with the inability of knowing whether a patient is potentially infected with Covid-19.
“Extra cautious is the best way to describe how we’re feeling. It’s that whole thing of slowing everything down. ‘What are we doing and why are we doing it?’ It’s making sure everybody’s briefed and everybody’s okay.”
These detailed procedures can take additional physical and mental exhaustions on our crew which is why the extra support members are greatly needed. Life Flight has trained up additional support crew for assistance with Covid-19 related missions, including its Chief Executive Mark Johnston and support team members.
With additional PPE gear and resources needed to ensure the safety of New Zealanders, Life Flight is heavily dependent on its supporters and donations at this time.
Please join our crew in the fight against COVID-19