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Air ambulance service for Haj in place


Published: Nov 8, 2010 00:38 Updated: Nov 8, 2010 00:38

JEDDAH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) will launch its landmark air ambulance services during this year’s Haj, said Capt. Abdulhamid Al-Jawfi, director of the Red Crescent’s air ambulance operations.

The service is being initiated to help pilgrims in case of accidents or emergencies. “The program’s strategy is to transport the patient to the nearest medical center within an hour regardless of the distance,” said Al-Jawfi.

“Air ambulances and land ambulances will cooperate during Haj to swiftly transfer sick and injured people to hospitals. For example, there will be a center where both air ambulances and land ambulances will be able to meet. Through this technique, patients will be taken to the nearest hospital in a short time,” he added.

“The land team will receive calls from members of the public. They will then inform the air team about cases. The air ambulance will not be used in all cases. The medical team will discuss the case and helicopters will only be used in certain cases,” said Al-Jawfi.

“The medical team will decide how important the case is, what is the distance between the patient’s location and the nearest medical center, and the required time to transport the patient,” said Al-Jawfi.

There will be five medical helicopters in use during Haj. “The helicopters will serve the holy sites and the ring roads that lead to Makkah and Madinah,” he said.

Air ambulance helicopters are designed in a way that can provide basic medical care to patients. “The helicopters are designed to transport two patients under the supervision of two doctors. Air ambulances are considered the most sophisticated helicopters available in the world. They are also equipped with small emergency rooms,” said Al-Jawfi.

The air ambulance plan during Haj has been divided into three stages. The first stage is to cover the roads that lead to Makkah and Madinah. The second stage is to cover the holy sites, while the third stage is set to cover pilgrims until they return to their home countries, said Al-Jawfi.

The program began with six helicopters, rented from Abu Dhabi, which were used in Jeddah and Riyadh to deal with car accident victims. They were also used during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

“This will be our first experience of Haj. A few months ago, Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, chairman of SRCA, decided to rent helicopters to test them at small events such as Ramadan … After a successful experience he decided to bring six helicopters that could be used for air rescue especially when it is hot and dusty in the Kingdom. Five of these helicopters will be used during Haj,” said Al-Jawfi.

To ensure the success of this program, SRCA has trained 120 carefully selected doctors. Pilots have also undergone special workshops and courses, said Al-Jawfi, adding that the Prince Faisal is concerned with ensuring paramedics reach scenes of accidents as quickly as possible.

“We’re planning to launch the air ambulance service in Dammam and then across the entire Kingdom,” he said.

The program has been launched under the supervision of the General Authority for Civil Aviation. Members of the public can report emergencies to the Saudi Red Crescent Authority on 997.

For more information visit: http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article182741.ece

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