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Air Medical Support for a Peripheral Hospital in Southern Israel: An Evolving Role for the Air Ambulance and Emergency Department Clinicians.

The early use of helicopters on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam led to the introduction of "air ambulances" into civilian practice. Initially, these aircraft were tasked to retrieve casualties and provide conventional paramedic care at the scene and en route to the hospital. The introduction of advanced medical teams on helicopters led to the evolution of helicopter emergency medical service units. Yoseftal Hospital is a 65-bed hospital serving the town of Eilat in southern Israel. It does not offer full intensive care or specialist services but does provide general surgical, medical, pediatric, and psychiatric services. The hospital is 100 km from the nearest tertiary center in Be'er Sheva, an ambulance journey of 2 hours across desert. The hospital serves a population of 70,000 residents and up to 500,000 tourists. Recognizing the need to provide a facility to transfer critical or complex patients, in August 2021, the Israeli Ministry of Health provided a dedicated helicopter to Yoseftal Hospital. The first 100 missions are presented. Forty-four missions were for cardiac presentations. For patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, the median time from the initial medical contact at Yoseftal to reception at the tertiary center was 141 minutes. Other transfers were for ear, nose, and throat (2); neurosurgical (14); trauma (9); respiratory (6); obstetrics and gynecology (3); and pediatric services (14) and nontraumatic surgical emergencies (15). Our experience validates the need for this resource and highlights the importance of robust clinical, operational, and transfer protocols between Yoseftal and the receiving specialist units. The challenging and diverse clinical activity requires additional skills and competencies for the critical care paramedics on the aircraft. Integrating the flight crew into the emergency department team facilitated early activation of the aircraft and expedited patient preparation for flight. Our experience describes an evolving new role for the helicopter-support for a remote peripheral hospital.

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