Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Water or Marine Ambulances. Floods, Hurricanes, Typhoons. The Scillies and Channel Islands. Dangers for Air and Sea Rescue Teams.

Water levels are rising worldwide.  Floods caused by hurricanes, typhoons, persistent rainfall and other climatic causes mean that many more water ambulances will be needed in the future.  Many places in the world are isolated from health centres, and charities like Save the Children, SHIELD, an International Rescue Committee and the Raven Trust take patients in inaccessible parts of the world by boat to hospitals and clinics, but these boats are not equipped to treat patients.
Water or marine ambulances are manned by a coxswain, crew, paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians. They are generally on call around the clock and carry a defibrillator, oxygen, emergency life-support and life-saving equipment; many have stretcher cabins amidships to give patients a smoother passage.  They frequently save people’s lives, but it is often tricky in rough weather to move patients on or off a boat.

Star of Life

There is only one water ambulance service in the UK, in the Scilly Isles and
one other in the Crown dependencies of the Channel Islands.
The Scilly Isles catamaran ambulance Star of Life is funded by the West Cornwall
Primary Care Trust.  It takes patients from the islands of Bryher, Tresco, St Martin's and
St Agnes to hospital on the main island of St Mary's and if necessary transports urgent
cases to mainland Cornwall 28 miles away in case fog prevents the helicopter service
from flying.  Star of Life also takes doctors, midwives and health visitors from St Mary's
to visit the other islands.

                                               Flying Christine III

The Flying Christine III based in St. Peter Port Guernsey is run by the St John Ambulance and Rescue Service and funded by the generosity of the public.  The inhabited islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou andLihou, A midwife delivered the first baby to be born on board The Flying Christine III in August 2008, and this summer the marine ambulance took part in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 2 June.

The Venetian Emergency Medical Service uses water ambulances, nurses and full emergency equipment to reach patients in the many waterways of the city and outlying islands.  Doctors also travel on board in life-threatening situations.

Dutch Water Ambulance

Norway, Holland and New Zealand have long used water ambulances owing to the fact that many places can be reached more easily by water than by land.
Mumbai has been using hovercraft ambulances since 2009.
Quezon, Manila, uses water ambulances to transport patients by sea from eight remote islands in the province to mainland health centres and hospitals.
Northern Bangladesh has huge flood plains called haors which cover the region during the monsoon season from June to October. Save the Children operates water ambulances there.
India and China suffer flooding during the typhoon season too and manufacture and use water ambulances.
Brazil has bought water ambulances from Holland for the Amazon and elsewhere.
Kashmir is planning to have water ambulances for the Kashmir Valley in 2013 to beat the traffic jams that cause huge delays during the vital first hour of saving a patient’s life, including the many tourists who come to the Dal Lake.

Since 2009, the large Idjwi island in Lake Kivu in the Congo has had a water ambulance. Although it is only 17′ long it has room for two rowers, two seated patients, or one lying down.  Over 200,000 people live in the island, and before this initiative by Dr. Sebisaho and Clay Baxter  there was no organised transport to take patients in an emergency to the nearest clinic.
However organised the emergency water ambulance boat teams are, it must always be remembered that it is dangerous work moving the sick on and off a boat, particularly when a stretcher is involved and the weather is rough. Headlines worldwide were made in April 2011 after the crew of the liner Ocean Princess dropped a stretcher bearing a woman passenger who needed emergency medical treatment into the freezing Arctic during her transfer into a launch.  .She was not strapped into the stretcher when the boats lurched and drew apart. Janet Richardson, 73, who was in the sea for four minutes, died four days later in hospital, and horrified passengers watching from the side witnessed and photographed the tragic accident.

Air Ambulance teams too undertake many dangers to reach their patients, and only today at Copabocana Beach in Brazil a helicopter crashed into the sea; fortunately nobody was killed.