Trauma helis too dangerous to fly at night
Patients' lives in parts of the Netherlands could be at risk following a decision by deputy Infrastructure Minister Joop Atsma not to issue a license for two trauma helicopters. He thinks it is too dangerous for helicopters to take off from hospital roofs at night to attend emergencies.
The owner of the helicopters, Dutch motoring association ANWB, is furious. ANWB managing director Guido van Woekom told Dutch daily, "This decision means valuable time will be lost in emergencies involving seriously injured victims in traffic and areas where people go out at night."
The decision affects two trauma helicopters in the Netherlands, one based at the Groningen Medical Centre and the other at Amsterdam's Free University Medical Centre. These helicopters take off from helipads on the roofs of the buildings. Helicopter flights from hospitals in the south-eastern city of Nijmegen and the port of Rotterdam are not affected by the decision, because they take off from the ground.
The minister says the emergency night flights are "an avoidable risk". The ANWB and hospitals have been trying to organise night flights for many years and are almost ready to launch the service. Mr Van Woerkom calls the decision "incomprehensible". He thinks it is strange that the Ministry of Health welcomes the flights while the Minister of Infrastructure refuses to issue a licence to fly at night.
The ANWB and one of the hospitals involved intend to send a letter to parliament about the night flights.
The discussion about night flights was rekindled after the New Year's Eve fire in Volendam in 2001, in which 14 people were killed and 180 injured. Then the Health Ministry decided to introduce a national network covering the whole country by 1 April 2011.
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