Celebrating 50 golden years!
The 5th of February 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS). The concept of the AMS was initiated as a result of a car accident that happened between Aberdeen and Beaufort West in 1966. The service started with a single-engine Cessna 205, able to carry one stretcher patient. The first air ambulance flight took place on 5 February 1966, from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn. A young couple was travelling back to Cape Town from their honeymoon, on a remote road, when their car rolled. The couple lay next to the road for hours without assistance. The wife had been badly injured in the accident. Fortunately, having managed to make some contact, their family arranged for someone they knew with access to a light aircraft to fly blood to the victims for a transfusion.
Today, the AMS is a national aero-medical organization with bases in the Western Cape (Cape Town & Oudtshoorn) KwaZulu-Natal (Durban & Richards Bay), Mpumalanga (Nelspruit) and Polokwane (Limpopo). To date approximately 38 650 patients have been flown by the AMS. To date approximately 38 650 patients have been flown by the AMS.
It has been a busy start on this remarkable historical day. The Western Cape Department EMS/AMS rescue helicopter was dispatched to Table Mountain just after 7am this morning to rescue a female Russian hiker. The rescue helicopter has subsequently also completed an inter-facility transfer from Vredenburg Provincial Hospital to new Somerset Hospital and is currently busy with an inter-facililty transfer from Montagu Hospital to Worcester Provincial Hospital.
The KwaZulu-Natal Durban emergency fixed wing aircraft has been dispatched to transfer a 6 year old patient from Bethesda to Albert Luthhuli Hospital. The Durban emergency helicopter is currently completing a mission transferring a 4 year old patient from Ekhombe Hospital to Greys Hospital. The Richards Bay emergency helicopter is busy with a transfer from Mosveld to Ngwelezane Hospital. The Nelspruit Department of Health EMS/AMS emergency helicopter is currently busy with a mission providing aero-medical emergency services to miners trapped in Lily Mine near Barberton in Mpumalanga.
Established in 1966 by the SA Red Cross Society and formed into an Independent Trust in 1994 the AMS provides an air ambulance network, rural health outreach and emergency rescue service to metropolitan areas and remote rural communities.
The AMS provides aero-medical rescue and emergency services via its fleet of helicopters and aero-planes. The AMS currently operates five Pilatus PC 12 fixed wing aircraft, seven helicopters of which five are AgustaWestland 119Ke and two Eurocopter B4 helicopters. All the aircraft are fully equipped air ambulance with a dedicated mobile intensive care-type interior.
It is the mission of the AMS to contribute to the improvement in the quality of life of all communities, facilitate access to equitable and effective healthcare and the provision of aero-medical and other associated humanitarian services. The AMS plays a vital role in providing not only emergency rescue and air ambulance services but also a community outreach programme taking critically needed healthcare to impoverished communities.
From airlifting a patient that was injured on the roadside, to lowering an AMS paramedic to assist a drowning victim, to bringing health specialists to the communities in rural areas or inter-facility transfers to higher levels of care after accidents or illness, the AMS is a comprehensive aero-medical organisation that provides support to all communities in need.
The AMS is committed to forming partnerships to develop a comprehensive movement addressing the aero-medical needs of people in South Africa. In this regards the AMS in partnership with government and the support from Corporates is the first civilian organization on the African continent to introduce Night Vision Systems into its helicopter aero-medical operation. This system was first introduced in KwaZulu-Natal and in the Western Cape. The introduction of NVG’s on the helicopter programme enables us to service requests at night. With the introduction of Night Vision Systems, the AMS in partnership with the Provincial Departments of Health will now be able to respond to helicopter emergencies 24 hours a day. The extension of this programme is in support of strengthening the healthcare system and providing the community with access to the helicopter aero-medical service 24hours a day.
The AMS is committed to deliver a world class aero-medical service to the community. Thank you to all our Provincial Department of Health partners, sponsors, Trustees, employees, volunteers for your unwavering support over the last 50 years. We look forward to continue to work together with you to improve the quality of healthcare of all South Africans.