Voice of the industry: true integration of HEMS teams in Norway
The integrated three-crew concept has been used in the Norwegian Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for more than four decades. The fully funded HEMS by the Government of Norway is necessary due to the country’s topography, characterized by high mountains, fjords and a long coastline. Road distances can be quite large (road trips also often include ferries in parts of Norway), so the HEMS is an essential supplement for road ambulances, especially in rural areas. This importance is further underlined due to the increasing specialization of hospitals, which leads to an increase in the need for samples and transfers of patients.
Norwegian Air Ambulance Fleet and Mission Profile
The public service comprises 14 helicopters working from 13 bases of operations and covers all of Norway with care provided by consultants. The Norwegian HEMS teams respond to both primary missions (treatment of patients in a pre-hospital setting) and secondary (inter-hospital transfers / recoveries) and cover the spectrum of patients, from newborns weighing 600 grams to pediatric and adult ECMO ( extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and iNO (inhaled nitric oxide) transport. This vast field of responses in a 24/7/365 service is very demanding, made all the more difficult by a complex geographical environment and, for much of the year, difficult weather and light conditions, and difficult sites. landing not prospected / unknown.
In addition, the crew also responds to alpine incidents, including climbing and ice climbing accidents. Some missions are conducted as suspended operations with fixed length lines (Human External Cargo (HEC) with double hook).
The aircraft types currently in use are H135 EC135 T3H variant (5 bases), H145 BK117 D-2 and D-3 variants (7 bases), AW139 Phase 7 (2 bases)
All bases have an aircraft other than a base (Oslo), which is equipped with both an H135 and an H145. Crew members serving on both the H145 and the AW139 must stay up to date on both types, which is a challenge for the planning and the individual crew member. Additionally, HEMS pilots and crewmembers (HCMs) are required to complete a recurring training program every six months on both types, which means additional education and additional time for training.