Monday, January 16, 2012

Cayman may get its own air ambulance

The Cayman Islands Ministry of Health is working on getting a dedicated air ambulance service based in Grand Cayman to fly local patients off island for overseas medical care.

Health Minister Mark Scotland said efforts were under way for private health insurers, the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company and the Health Services Authority to join forces to make it viable for a single air ambulance operator to service the Cayman Islands.

“We’re looking at some sort of cooperation between all the insurers, CINICO and the HSA to keep an air ambulance on the ground here, permanently based, for easier access because right now when we need an air ambulance, there’s a long lead time ... It can be eight, 10, 12 hours or even longer,” Mr. Scotland said.

“It would be a huge improvement to the healthcare system. It is still a ways off because we have to be able to put all the businesses together because each insurer does his own thing now and we cannot get the volume feasible for one person to do it,” he said.

Mr. Scotland said if everyone agrees to be in the pool of insurers, a request for proposals from air ambulance service providers would be issued so that ultimately one company would service all the local health insurance providers 
and the HSA.

Currently, each insurance company arranges for different air ambulance services to take its members off island to hospitals in the United States when necessary.

According to statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands, last year there were 194 air ambulance trips from Cayman, 176 in 2010, 154 in 2009, and 225 in 2008 – an average of 3.6 a week for the past four years.

“They’re not taking advantage of the economies of scale,” said Mr. Scotland, adding if all the insurance companies came together, “it becomes more feasible for someone to base equipment and staff here. That’s been the issue all along”.

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