Air ambulance services in the country have received a boost with the partnership between some local airlines and Flying Doctors Nigeria.
The partnership, which allows patients and team of doctors on commercial flights, aims to enhance emergency response and save lives that could have been lost due to inadequate medical facilities and specialties in some parts of the country.
Founder and Managing Director, Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Ola Orekunrin, disclosed the collaboration, which has since taken effect to meet the needs of Nigerians.
Orekunrin noted one of the greatest medical problems in Nigeria and Africa in general is logistics, adding that the more air ambulances are utilised, “the more we are able to get more people to the right place at the right time”.
She said: “Recently, we moved a patient from Benin to Lagos. A building fell on her and her hip was shattered and moving her on the road would have been impossible.
“It is about moving people to where they can get very fast treatment. One of our common trips is actually from Maiduguri to Lagos. Trying to move complex orthopaedic cases from Maiduguri to Lagos for instance will be practically impossible.”
Orekunrin said to address the problem of affordability on private care module (using an air ambulance jet or helicopter), the ward-like cubicle has been designed to fit into any commercial aircraft. Each cubicle and its gadgets take 10 minutes to set up or dismantle on board.
She added that Maiduguri to Lagos, Benin to Lagos, Kaduna to Abuja are some of the journeys patients need to make every day and the services on offer have really changed the lives of a lot of people.
Whereas the sophisticated care service is popular in advanced countries like United States and United Kingdom, Orekunrin reckons that Nigerian setting needed air ambulances more given comparative disadvantage in the area of logistics (road network), facility, personnel and healthcare budget.
She reiterated the call for government to invest more in air ambulances in order to provide help for people in need of fast medical services and for disaster management.
Orekunrin, who is also a trainee helicopter pilot, said: “In terms of prospects, a large air ambulance will do about 100,000 transfers per year; so the industry has a lot of potential. A lot of people die not because there is no care anywhere, but because they are not close to the facility; people should not die because of access to care.
“We really want to work more with the government. Typically, air ambulances around the world work more with the government but for now, it has been limited to individuals and corporate organisations. Partnership with the government will revolutionalise treatment,” Orekunrin said.