By Fred Vergneres and Bristow
In a press release, the operator Bristow and its subsidiary Bristow Americas reported transporting offshore personnel infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). The operations, conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, were carried out using helicopters dedicated to search and rescue missions.
According to the operator, the first request for emergency assistance was received on 29 January 2020. To date, Bristow has reportedly handled 24 such requests and deployed COVID-19 test kits to remote and isolated offshore platforms and vessels. Bristow has also indicated that it will continue to respond to requests for urgent medical evacuation of potentially infected patients. Rob Phillips, Bristow’s senior vice president for the Bristow Americas area, said, “Bristow has always been committed to providing helicopter transport of potentially infectious patients.Though, the current response is the most comprehensive to date, consisting of a well-coordinated and aligned multiagency and multinational effort,” and add : “The safety, health, and welfare of our workforce, customers, and the public we support around the world is of the utmost importance to our global organization.”
As with any potentially infectious patient, Bristow strictly adheres to universal and body substance isolation (BSI) precautions, physical barriers, and other specialty equipment within the aeromedical transport environment. The level of potential infection will trigger additional precautions, as applicable, to the patient encounter and follow-on transport. If COVID-19 is suspected, additional resources and authorities are contacted to determine the best course of action. Upon tasking completion, the aircraft is completely disinfected and returned to service.“We are currently on track to be the first commercial operator in this region to implement portable, negative pressure isolation stretchers, for high-risk transports involving unconsciousness, non-ambulatory, or high-risk infectious disease patients receiving invasive en-route care,” said David Jacob, Deputy Area Manager for the Americas area.
Bristow is closely working in conjunction with their clients, respective medical control authorities, hospitals, state health departments, federal agencies and the ministries of health, port health and other authorities and partners supporting their international rescue operations in the Western Hemisphere. “Our past, proven success with safely transporting patients with infectious diseases shows that our fleet of specially configured AW139, S-76 and S-92 helicopters, and more importantly, the training of our crews can safely and effectively transport suspected COVID-19 cases without infecting others,” Jacob said. “We are ready to help and have the experience to do it the right way and can expand this service to where needed to help battle COVID-19.”