Ensuring Safe Aeromedical Evacuations in the Global Era of Infectious Diseases
May 29, 2020 - Defence Stories
Medical evacuations (MEDEVAC) are not new to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). In fact, MEDEVAC are a regular part of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) missions.
The RCAF Search and Rescue Force execute MEDEVAC on an almost daily basis in some of the most challenging regions of Canada. The Canadian Forces Aeromedical Evacuation Flight (CF AE) are routinely tasked to evacuate CAF members with various injuries or illnesses from anywhere in the world. In larger scale, the RCAF is a key player in support of Government of Canada responses to international and domestic emergencies, providing evacuation services wherever and whenever needed.
While MEDEVAC missions remain the same at their core, the environment requiring them is changing. The scale of the current pandemic triggered the RCAF to act decisively in order to keep providing key services safely. The need to protect aviators, combined with the need to support the Government of Canada now and in the future, has resulted in a series of emergency procurements to reduce the risk of contamination of medical teams, aircrew, and aircraft while transporting infected patients.
Four procurements are well underway:
- Aeromedical Bio-containment Evacuation System (ABES): This specially designed large isolation unit fits in CC-130 Hercules and CC-177 Globemaster aircraft to provide a space where multiple infected patients can be kept and treated by medical staff while ensuring the safety of the aircraft’s crew during long domestic or trans-border flights.
- Aeromedical Single Isolation Bio-containment Units (ASIBU): These reusable hard-shell capsules carry one patient and allows medical staff to provide advanced medical care during transportation. Its hard shell provides safe operation in an aviation environment, including helicopter operations, and allow quick decontamination between missions.
- Disposable Isolation Single Bio-containment Units (DISBU): These soft-shell units are lightweight, quick to deploy, and easily packable. They isolate stable patients enabling aircrew safety over short distances.
- Griffon Helicopter COVID Barriers: These barriers separate pilots in the crew section from the passengers in the rear cabin in a Griffon aircraft, and will serve as a complement to other protective measures.
“The RCAF is on the path to becoming much more agile in the safe aeromedical evacuation of infected patients. Over the next six months, emergency procurements totalling $7.3M will provide the RCAF with the most advanced equipment commercially available to build a capability for now and for years to come,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Delivery timelines for projects vary, but deliveries have started and are expected to be completed by this October. We are confident that these projects will increase CAF’s capability in this new era.
Sic Itur Ad Astra – “Such is the pathway to the stars”.
DISBU- (April 2020) Picture taken by LS Lisa Wallace, Imagery Technician, from 19 Operations Support Squadron, Imaging Flight, Comox. Picture of the DISBU Chamber during Standard Operation Procedures development activities in Comox.
CH-146 Barriers between pilot crew and passengers. (April 2020) Picture provided by 438 ETAH Squadron (St-Hubert).
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