• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Air ambulance calls rise during lockdown

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

COVID-19 has increased the number of calls for Northern Ireland's Air Ambulance but lockdown has changed the nature of them

Video Transcript

- Medics, [INAUDIBLE].

DAVID BLEVINS: This wasn't staged for the cameras. Northern Ireland's Air Ambulance is responding to a live call. The crew's mission, as always, is to preserve life. Minutes later, they're putting this training into practice, intubating a patient.

- OK, folks. So just to recap of where we are. Obviously, we've extricated this patient. He's fallen 20 feet--

DAVID BLEVINS: Every day begins with this kind of exercise, and PPE has brought unique challenges.

- But one of the biggest challenges is communication. I'm talking with you tonight with normal tone and voice, but we had to raise that up whenever we're speaking.

And particularly in an aircraft. We're wearing our helmets, we're wearing these masks. So I'm talking to the pilot, talking to the doctor, and sometimes you've got to yell and speak louder. And really relying upon effective communication.

- Yeah, I'm Scott. Yeah, I was calling Belfast. Stand by for details.

DAVID BLEVINS: It isn't long before they're doing it for real. Ambulance headquarters in Belfast is requesting the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. They quickly deploy from their base, formerly the site of Northern Ireland's notorious Maze prison.

From this place, long associated with death, they are saving life. But the pandemic poses a real threat in the confined space of an aircraft.

Within five minutes of the 999 call, this crew can be on board and ready for departure. But it doesn't matter what kind of incident they're responding to. They now have to assume that every patient is COVID positive.

COVID has increased the number of incidents they have came to ease the pressure on their land colleagues. Rooftop landings at the Royal Victoria Hospital have become routine. But increased isolation during lockdown has changed the nature of calls. They're dealing with an upsurge in life threatening injuries caused by attempted suicide.

- A variety of traumatic injuries that are a result of mental health and the stresses of society, dealing with the COVID pandemic. We are able to bring interventions, airway secured ongoing CPR for prolonged duress. And that's certainly probably one of the stark things I've noticed why there's just maybe been a dip on some of the road traffic collisions that we attend.

DAVID BLEVINS: They're not the frontline in the fight against COVID. They're a critical back line. Trauma doesn't stop during a pandemic. Tomorrow will bring different challenges for Northern Ireland's Air Ambulance team. David Blevins, Sky News, at the Maze.