Thursday, June 25, 2020

Air Ambulance Industry in India Dwindles by 90 Percent Due to Covid-19 Lockdown Measures

The lockdown caused by COVID-19 pandemic could have been a blessing in disguise for the air ambulance industry which was identified as an essential service, and its aggregators received double the evacuation query than the normal days. However, it could not be translated into the business. The stricter regulations and stigma of Covid-19 have cost this industry dearly. As per estimates, since the lockdown, the businesses of this industry has dwindled by 90 per cent.

Dr Sunil Dubey, general manager at Flying Doctors by Medanta, said the company was operating 33-35 evacuation flights a month before the lockdown. It has currently come down to mere 8-10 flights per month. Although, the queries about the services they receive were more than double in number than the usual days. "However, we could not help them," he said.

Sandeep Kumar, the ALSA air ambulance service owner in Delhi, said his business had gone down by 90 per cent since the lockdown started.

S.K. Singh, Director of Lifeline air ambulance services in Delhi, said that his business had gone down to zero. "The last medical evacuation we operated was on May 20. So technically, we have provided zero services in last 30 days," he added.

Dr Dubey said that while the air ambulance service was included in the essential services, the permission to start operation was given much later. "We resumed our services only after the first phase of lockdown was over. Till then, we were not given any direction," he added.

The industry leaders said that the government delayed the permission to resume air ambulance services out of fear that the stranded people in India or abroad could use it to bypass the lockdown. However, they blamed the stricter norms laid out by the aviation authorities after the lockdown, which have caused massive losses to the industry.

"During normal times, we only required a hospital discharge summary and clearance from the aviation regulator to operate the medical flight. Now, we need six more approvals for operating our services," Dr Dubey claimed.

As per the aggregators, medical flights will be allowed only if a patient has exhausted all local options. The service providers need permission from the district magistrates of both arrival and departure cities after submission of letters from the doctor and hospital giving the patient's details.
25/06/20 IANS/
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