BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) now has night vision imaging technology aboard three of its air ambulance helicopters, to safely reach more patients at night.
The helicopters are based in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. A fourth BCEHS air ambulance helicopter is based in Kamloops, and it will be equipped to provide night vision flight operations later this year.
The installation and necessary flight crew training is estimated at more than $1.7 million and is the result of an agreement reached last year between BCEHS and its primary helicopter service provider, Helijet International.
“This is an important investment to improve access to patient care in British Columbia,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “The addition of night vision technology also builds on recent investments we’ve made to improve access to ambulance services and will ensure a heightened level of safety for patients, flight crews and air ambulance paramedics,” said Dix.
“We’ve been working hard to enhance our air ambulance program, and night vision technology is one of the ways in which we are improving our service,” said Linda Lupini, Executive Vice President of BCEHS and the Provincial Health Services Authority.
The new technology makes use of night vision goggles (known in the industry as NVG) and is used primarily by search and rescue groups as well as police. Night vision goggles, using image enhancement technology, collect all the available light, including infrared light, and amplify it so that the pilot can see in the dark.
“This new technology will increase our operational reliability, while ensuring the safest possible flying conditions during nighttime and low-light conditions,” said Danny Sitnam, President and CEO of Helijet International.
BCEHS’ first in-service night vision patient transport took place on April 20, 2018, utilizing one of its Vancouver-based helicopters.
- The BCEHS dedicated air ambulance fleet has a total of 11 aircraft: four helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft based in Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Kelowna, Fort St. John, Prince George and Prince Rupert.
- The four helicopters are operated by contractors: three by Helijet International, and one by Summit Helicopters.
- Approximately 2,000 patients in BC are transported by helicopter each year.
- About 10 per cent of all air ambulance transports are emergency 911 air ambulance responses.
- The vast majority of air ambulance service in BC is to transfer patients from the North and the Interior between hospitals and other health care facilities.
- Along with its dedicated air ambulance fleet, BCEHS can also call upon approximately 35 pre-qualified air carriers throughout British Columbia to provide charter aircraft as needed.
- Annually, BCEHS responds to nearly 7,000 patients that require transportation by air ambulance.
- Patients in the North account for approximately 40 per cent of all air transports, and patients in the Interior account for approximately 25 per cent.
- In 2018, BC Emergency Health Services and the Province of BC have also added nine ambulances, and 61 full-time, and eight part-time paramedic positions in communities such as Nanaimo, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Fort St. John, Peace River, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Ladysmith, Vancouver and Castlegar.
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