Air Evac Lifeteam adjusts to new normal; now wearing full PPE every flight

Coronavirus

NEW MARTINSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – As medical industries across the country continue to take the brunt of the covid-19 virus, there’s one specific part of the industry that has been affected that you may not be thinking about.

Air Evac Lifeteam opened their doors for business in the Ohio Valley in 2008. They have some of the highest trained professionals around, but now the employees at base 78 in Wetzel County are training even more to stay on top of the COVID-19 virus.

They encounter some of the worst accidents known to man, and they’re on scene…saving lives… when seconds count. But with a global pandemic on our hands, they’ve had to change their safety protocol and adjust to their new normal—full PPE… every flight.

I think it’s caused a minimal delay, but that’s across the industry. All the crews are putting on additional personal protective equipment, so gowns, gloves, masks, face shield. But this ultimately protects everyone involved, especially the patient.

MIKE CONNERS- PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AIR EVAC 78

Although the helicopter isn’t small, it’s not huge either. And with the additional infectious disease equipment, it puts their team in close quarters with patients. So, they’re doing everything they can to say protected. The team must communicate with their pilot, so headsets are a must. And wearing masks can bring its own challenges.

We didn’t wear masks on every flighty previously. Now, they take a little getting used to because they move under the helmet when you’re doing your procedures. We had done it occasionally with a suspected infectious patient, but now we’re treating every patient as potentially having COVID-19.

MIKE CONNERS- PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AIR EVAC 78

Each day they get their temperatures checked and must complete a sign and symptom questionnaire. And even though sanitizing the aircraft after a flight has always been done, now it’s paramount. They’ve even added extra safety measures to equipment they use the most.

The ventilator has an additional filter we’ve added to the ventilator to help protect, and it does catch viral matter. So, that’s an additional protection. But when we intubate them and hook them to the vent immediately that makes that enclosed circuit breathing. So, it doesn’t expose anyone once it’s in place.

MIKE CONNERS- PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AIR EVAC 78

And although they encounter some of the worst situations daily, dealing with a pandemic has only made them more aware of how serious the coronavirus is. In fact—if there’s one thing they all admit, is that they’re all a little nervous.  

The crews are well trained when dealing with any type of infectious disease anyway, but during a pandemic everyone’s anxiety has of course increased a little bit. This prior training has helped them prepare for patients with any type of infectious disease. So, the anxiety is probably up a little bit, but I don’t think it makes their job a whole lot harder.

MIKE CONNERS- PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AIR EVAC 78

There has been a slight decrease in call volume, and Conners attributes that to the stay at home orders in place across the tri-state area. He says since there are less people working high risk jobs and travelling there are less incidents.

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