China / Society

Helicopters to lift emergency medical services in Beijing

By Wang Qingyun (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-01 10:16

Beijing will be the first city in China to upgrade its emergency medical service with the use of professional medical helicopters, said an official from the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Rescue Center.

The center signed a deal with Airbus Helicopters China to purchase two EC135 helicopters on Monday.

"Each helicopter will be refitted with devices including an electrocardiograph, a ventilator, a defibrillator and a micropump," said Tian Zhenbiao, the center's deputy head.

The first helicopter will arrive in August, while the second one will come in the second half of next year.

The center started its helicopter emergency medical service in 2011, cooperating with a local company offering helicopter flights. The service transferred a Swedish boy whose spleen was injured while skiing in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, in 2012.

However, as the company's helicopters are not used only for medical service, whenever the center needs to use a helicopter it has to tell the company to take the seats out so that there is enough space for equipment, Tian said.

According to the center, 290 civil helicopters were registered with the Civil Aviation Administration of China by the end of 2013, none of which were used for medical service missions only.

"Traffic jams often occur in Beijing as there are more than 5 million automobiles in the city. Also, most of the areas circling Beijing are mountainous, making it impossible for an ambulance to reach those in need in time," said Tian.

"So it's important to develop the air medical service."

The helicopters will be used for short-distance medical service in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province, complementing the center's fixed-wing planes used for long-distance transfer, he added.

To make the service affordable to the public, the center is cooperating with an insurance company.

The use of helicopters will become more popular for emergency services, and it is necessary for large hospitals to build parking aprons on their rooftops, said Zhou Rongbin, director of the emergency department of the General Hospital of Beijing PLA Military Region.

"There usually is a square near a hospital, but it is often too crowded for a helicopter to land. Yet few of the large hospitals in the city have a parking apron on their rooftops," he said.

Liao Shaofang, deputy director of the outpatient office of Huaxin Hospital, or the First Hospital of Tsinghua University, agreed.

"Each inch of land is like gold within the Sixth Ring Road of the city, thus the most reasonable solution is to renovate the rooftops into parking aprons to both reduce the cost and minimize the impact of noise to the neighborhood," he said.

He suggested the government subsidize hospitals for their parking aprons.

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