Bristow Americas' SAR teams have successfully transported acutely-ill offshore workers in the oil and gas industry with suspected cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), using specially-configured and equipped search and rescue aircraft supporting operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.
The first emergency request for assistance was received on January 29. To date, Bristow has safely completed 24 successful requests to transport offshore workers and COVID-19 test kits to remote and isolated offshore platforms, drilling rigs and drill ships. Bristow will continue to support emergency medical evacuation requests to transport potentially infectious patients, which may include suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
“In the Americas region, we have always possessed the ability to safely transport potentially infectious patients in our SAR aircraft. Though, the current response is the most comprehensive to date, consisting of a well-coordinated and aligned multiagency and multinational effort,” says Rob Phillips, senior VP for Bristow's Americas area. “The safety, health and welfare of our workforce, customers and the public we support around the world is of the utmost importance to our global organisation.”
As with any potentially infectious patient, Bristow strictly adheres to universal and body substance isolation (BSI) precautions, physical barriers and other specialty equipment within the aeromedical transport environment. The level of potential infection will trigger additional precautions, as applicable, to the patient encounter and follow-on transport. If COVID-19 is suspected, additional resources and authorities are contacted to determine the best course of action. Upon tasking completion, the aircraft is completely disinfected and returned to service.
“We are currently on track to be the first commercial operator in this region to implement portable, negative pressure isolation stretchers for high-risk transports involving unconsciousness, non-ambulatory or high-risk infectious disease patients receiving invasive en-route care,” explains David Jacob, deputy area manager for the Americas area.
Bristow is closely working in conjunction with its clients, respective medical control authorities, hospitals, state health departments, federal agencies and the ministries of health, port health and other authorities and partners supporting its international rescue operations in the Western Hemisphere.
“Our past, proven success with safely transporting patients with infectious diseases shows that our fleet of specially configured AW139, S-76 and S-92 helicopters, and more importantly, the training of our crews can safely and effectively transport suspected COVID-19 cases without infecting others,” adds Jacob. “We are ready to help and have the experience to do it the right way and can expand this service to where needed to help battle COVID-19.”