With the second wave of coronavirus hitting India much more severely than many could have imagined, the healthcare infrastructure has been overwhelmed. While many people in the top cities of India have had access to good healthcare services (public as well as private), people residing in the second and third-tier cities have struggled to gain access to proper facilities.
Many of the patients among them have needed urgent medical attention, and during these times of crisis, air ambulances have come as a ray of hope for many families. I have had one such experience first hand when a family friend required urgent shifting from Allahabad (now known as Prayagraj) to Hyderabad, and due to lack of knowledge about these services and unavailability on short notice, the patient wasn’t able to receive the care that the situation demanded, and unfortunately couldn’t be saved.
During this period, I came in contact with many air ambulance service providers and have interviewed a few of them to provide a compilation of all the necessary details in this article, so more lives can be saved, and so that nobody remains deprived of the treatment merely due to lack of information.
How to book an air ambulance service? Here’s a step-by-step guide
Overall the procedure isn’t complex if you understand what is required, and that is exactly why this article is being written. Bear in mind that two documents are of extreme importance in this process if you want a patient to be transferred.
The first one is a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the district magistrate of where the patient is at the time, and the second document is an acceptance letter from the destination hospital.
Although, Dr. Ashok Kumar, managing director of Ashoka Rescue air ambulance services, expressed his concern about the requirement for the NOC from the district magistrate, as it only served as an obstacle in an otherwise smooth procedure.
The most obvious thing you are going to need to do in this process is to make a booking with an air ambulance service provider – I have listed a few companies that are providing this service in the section below.
There are approximately a total of 17-18 air ambulance flights taking place every day in India at the moment, therefore please plan accordingly. It would help if you have the required documents handy so there aren’t any last-minute delays.
Mr. Shaju Kumar, CEO of Aeromed, explained that once the booking is confirmed and the documents have been produced, they require the health reports (such as RT-PCR test) as their ground team arrives to check up on the patient’s status before boarding him/her on to the aircraft.
Depending on the service provider, they either take responsibility for delivering the patient all the way to the destination hospital or deliver them only till the ambulance at the destination airport/ airstrip, from where they can be taken to the hospital. In both cases, it is going to be fine.
How is the patient transferred?
Mr. Shaju Kumar mentioned that helicopters still aren’t as widely available for medical support in India as the western countries, and therefore there are only aeroplanes in use for this service.
The ground team takes the update from the doctor in charge of the patient and the air ambulance is equipped accordingly, for example, if the patient is going to require a certain amount of oxygen during the journey then that is made available, or if he/ she requires a ventilator then the aircraft is equipped with one.
Similarly, if the patient is Covid positive, then they are transferred in an isolation pod, where they aren’t exposed to other crew members.
Apart from the two pilots, there’s a doctor, a paramedic, and depending on the situation there is a technician for the ventilator, which makes up the entire crew.
What are the charges for an air ambulance?
The air ambulance charges in India may vary for numerous reasons, be it the distance, or the patient’s Covid status, type of aircraft, duration taken for end-to-end service, etc.
As described by Dr. Ashok Kumar, there are four different types of aircraft in service in India at the moment, the smallest of which is the C90 aircraft that costs approximately INR 75,000 (USD 1021) per hour, while the bigger aircraft costs can go up to INR 400,000 (USD 5445) per hour.
Note that the assignment of aircraft completely depends on the availability, so there probably won’t be much choice during this situation of crisis at least.
Who is providing air ambulance services in India?
B 668, Ashok vihar phase 4,
(+91) 9599195421, 9711200400, 9899554095
UG 124, Ansal Palam Corporate Plaza,
Palam Vihar, Gurugram, Haryana – 122017, India
317, Sobha Coral, Behind Jakkur Flying Club,
Bangalore – 560064, India
(+91) 9632112345, 9632712345, 8197755502
My primary reason behind writing this article is to make sure that people have access to information about this service. After speaking to various air ambulance service team members, who have tested positive several times since this pandemic has started and have remained in isolation from their families, I have gained an understanding that it is purely out of nobility and concern that they put themselves in harm’s way to serve the people rather than being driven by financial gains.
Dr. Ashok Kumar, who has been in this business for almost 20 years, and had to fly on an air ambulance not long after we spoke, says that he has already tested positive twice and has had to remain isolated from his family for their well-being.
I am going to be writing another article soon about how we, the common people, can make life easier for our frontline workers and will be sharing insights on what the air ambulance team members have to say. I will also be shedding some light on how the government can help improve things in this area.
This is a small contribution from my side towards making sure more lives are saved. You can do your bit by sharing this article as much as possible, so that each and everyone out there knows how the air ambulance service works, and knows that they have something to turn back to in case of an emergency.
I wish everybody a good health, and stay safe!
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