Air ambulance saving lives, needing help


By Moya Nina Iowa
THE air ambulance service run by Samaritan Aviation in East Sepik has saved nearly 900 lives since it started in 2010, the PNG medical symposium in Port Moresby was told.
Samarian Aviation (SA) co-founder, Mark Palm said the ambulance service using float planes in the Sepik River and plains has saved 873 people through emergency evacuation flights, medical supply deliveries and community outreach and health programmes.
Palm said that SA has been facilitating referrals for a population of almost 500,000 people to only one provincial hospital and has airlifted over 60,000kg of medical supplies and vaccines to 39 rural aid posts and assisting in search and rescue.
He said that of all the medical evacuations carried out, 30 per cent were surgical referrals while 56 per cent were non-surgical referrals. Of the surgical referrals, 23 per cent were trauma cases, with 26 per cent related to pregnancy complications. Also, most of the referrals were women.
Palm said that by operating the only float planes in PNG, they have helped saved many lives that would have been lost due to inaccessibility to aid posts and hospitals. Palm said of all people who had been medically evacuated through SA, 90 per cent survived.
Palm said that it took a sick person about one to four days to walk or canoe to the nearest hospital or aid post, which often had no doctors and nurses, only community health workers. But the travel time was cut to less than one hour by medical evacuation by the float planes.
Palm said he was very grateful for the assistance from the government and East Sepik administration but said there were still many challenges faced such as the high frequency radios and mobile phones that were used to communicate with his team on the ground.

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