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Med Flight transports down during COVID-19 pandemic

Med Flight transports down during COVID-19 pandemic

Profiles in front of chopper (copy)

One of UW Health Med Flight's helicopters sits in a hangar on the roof of UW Hospital. 

Medical helicopter transports by UW Health’s Med Flight were down 24% last month compared to March 2019 likely due to COVID-19, Dr. Michael Steuerwald, medical director, said Wednesday.

Flights during the first half of April were likely down by at least a similar amount, but numbers weren’t readily available, Steuerwald said.

Other air ambulance services around the country have also reported lower volumes since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he said.

It’s not clear why, but it may be due to fewer job-related injuries, since many people aren’t working, and fewer traffic collisions. “I assume people are driving around less, so that means less people are getting into major car accidents,” he said. “That’s obviously a big part of our business.”

More surprisingly is that transports of patients with strokes, heart attacks and other medical emergencies not involving injuries also seem to be down a bit, Steuerwald said.

Med Flight continues to fly such patients even if they also have COVID-19 or are suspected of being infected, he said. At least six flights have involved such patients, for which flight staff wears protective equipment, he said.

“We’re doing our best to keep helping the people we usually help in the most robust way possible,” he said.

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