This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) is coordinating with the volunteer organizations Angel Flight West and Central to create a distribution system to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) reach remote hospitals, primarily in Colorado, but also in Nebraska and Kansas.
Angel Flight pilots are volunteering aircraft, fuel, and their time to fly PPE throughout the region. Most of the flights are operating out of the Denver area. Centennial Airport officials have set aside space for the collection of PPE. Destination FBOs, meanwhile, have been working with Angel Flight and its volunteer pilots on the handling to enable the quick delivery of the equipment once it arrives. This requires coordination because many FBOs are now operating on reduced hours.
“These missions are essential,” said Benjamin Anderson, v-p of rural health and hospitals for CHA, adding they substantially cut the time it would take to get this equipment to remote hospitals to just a few hours. The major hospitals in larger city centers have had better distribution access, but remote hospitals face difficulties in obtaining equipment in a timely manner. Angel Flight is providing valuable resources to ensure those hospitals are reached, Anderson added.
But importantly, he said, is the collaboration has gained recognition and creditability among the organizations donating the PPE and now those organizations—ranging from the Colorado Health Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, Make4Covid, to Project C.U.R.E.—are readily channeling available equipment and other donations.
Ivan Martinez, director of outreach and wing operations for Angel Flight West, estimated that as of last week some three dozen of the missions had already been flown by his organization alone. But the missions have become steadier and now several are being flown daily.
Angel Flight West’s missions have primarily been in the Western areas of Colorado, while Angel Flight Central is reaching some of Colorado and a few hotspots and areas in need in Kansas and Nebraska.
Angel Flight missions frequently have involved transporting patients to medical treatment, but many of those trip requests have slowed in light of various restrictions. And while a few pilots have not been able to fly such missions, when a call went out for transporting PPE, “Pilots of Angel Flight raised their hands high,” said Angel Flight West executive director Josh Olson.
Brendan Sneegas, director of operation and development for Angel Flight Central, agreed, adding that these efforts underscore that “there exists from coast-to-coast an army of pilots looking for ways to truly help.”
In fact, these efforts have become known to the point where Anderson noted he has received calls from other regions on how to initiate similar efforts. And, he added, it represents a paradigm shift that could apply going forward: instead of bringing the patient to the specialist, these missions show how the specialist can get to the patient in a timely way.
As far as the volunteers, Olson said Angel Flight has developed guidance on the safe operation of these missions. Angel Flight can always use volunteers, he said, but pointed out the organization is hoping to spread the message that it has the capacity for more of these missions.