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2nd Air Medical & Rescue China Congress 2013

by Lux Joseph 30. May 2013

Last year I had the opportunity to visit China for the very first time. From the moment I found out that I would be traveling to Beijing I started planning a visit to the Great Wall of China. I simply could not leave China without visiting the iconic wall and crossing one of the Seven Wonders of the World off my bucket list. When the day finally came I was more than ready. Armed with my Nikon, I headed for the Great Wall running on pure excitement and adrenaline. When I finally arrived at the Badaling section of the Great Wall, my excitement immediately turned to confusion, and then sheer terror. With all the facts that our tour guide had been spitting out at me, she failed to mention that the Great Wall is basically all stairs! Steep, thigh high, narrow steps, and a cliff off to one side. I stood there in my boot cut jeans, collared shirt, and dress shoes staring up at the death trap as hundreds of people walked around me in their hiking attire, with a single thought racing through my mind…”I’m going to fall!” Thankfully, I didn’t fall, but with hundreds of people climbing the stairs and a seemingly infinite amount of uneven steps, the possibility was very real. It wasn’t until this year during my second visit to China that I realized just how much I underestimated how dangerous the situation actually was.

Earlier this month, CME had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Air Medical & Rescue China Congress 2013 in Shanghai, China. The AMRCC is a conference and exhibition to promote the development of the air medical and rescue in China. I was surprised to discover that the aeromedical system in China is virtually nonexistent and had I actually experienced an accident while visiting the Great Wall, I most likely would have been waiting hours before help arrived. This is simply unacceptable. Chinese citizens suffer through these conditions on a daily basis. One speaker demonstrated the lack in response time to assist those in need of medical attention by sharing a story of a seventeen year old boy who was hurt in a motor vehicle accident. Although he was only five minutes from the hospital, it took the ambulance forty five minutes because of traffic, causing the boy to die. If helicopter EMS was available, the boy would have survived. To put things into perspective, the USA has a population of 300 million and over 12,000 helicopters readily available for air medical repatriation. Though the population of China is 4 times greater than the USA at 1.3 billion people, China only has roughly 200 helicopters. With those helicopters, China has a limited number of personnel that are qualified in aviation and air medicine. Helicopters in China make up less than 1% of helicopters in the world. These conditions set China’s aeromedical system about 50 years behind that of the USA. With a population of 1.3 billion, China should have closer to 50,000 helicopters to adequately assist individuals requiring air medical transportation.

Although more and more players are becoming involved in the AMRCC and their cause, support from the central government of China is necessary for a successful implementation of an air medical program. Unfortunately the Chinese government does not have an agency or unit that specifically focuses on emergency rescue. These deficiencies are what continue to set China behind other countries. Leaders within the industry and key individuals focused on the improvement of air rescue are taking the right steps to establish a model similar to the FBO in the United States, but there is no telling when this may be accomplished. I think what saddens me most about the conference is that everyone there seemed to have the right mindset, but as one delegate so eloquently put it, “Everyone in this room has the right idea, but it’s going to take a group of individuals to step forward and fund the cause if it is ever going to move forward, and I don’t think any of those people are here today.” One speaker went as far as to open his presentation by explaining that he would be using the same PowerPoint presentation that he used in 2011 during the first AMRCC conference because the same challenges and issues that existed 2 years ago are still present today. No one can deny that this is something that China needs desperately but the question still remains, who is going to pay? Although the ambition and drive is strong, there is currently little to no resources backing this project. Along with everyone present at the conference, I have high hopes for the development of a strong aeromedical system within China, but sadly I don’t see that happening for a very long time.


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