This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
German helicopter air ambulance service DRF Luftrettung will begin transporting Covid-19 patients in “EpiShuttles” this week to protect patients and crew. Costing approximately $44,000 each, the EpiShuttles resemble over-sized neo-natal isolettes and allow patients to be connected to a ventilator via airtight access while being monitored and treated at the same time. They also allow patients to be transported more quickly as helicopters need not be disinfected between transports using the EpiShuttle.
Because of the Covid-19 crisis, “more and more people need an intensive care ventilation place as quickly as possible, but are currently mostly only transported on the ground, which takes time and can thus endanger life,” DRF said. The need to airlift more Covid-19 patients is expected in the coming weeks as the virus spreads and ever more patients will need to be transported greater distances to secure available medical ventilation.
Airlifting Covid-19 patients with traditional stretchers poses a distinct danger to aircrews. But the EpiShuttle largely ameliorates that risk. DRF notes that in traditional transports “the pilot, emergency paramedic, and emergency doctor are in direct contact with the patient and are at risk of becoming infected.” DRF will begin the service with two EpiShuttles and will ramp up to eight in the coming weeks.