African UN ambassadors tour German Air Force’s flying intensive care unit in Berlin

02.11.2017 - Press release

UN ambassadors from Sub-Saharan Africa visited Berlin to learn how Germany manages medical treatment while in the air.

Many delegations start or end their trip at Tegel Airport in Berlin. But for the 16 United Nations Ambassadors who were in Germany in mid-October to learn more about global engagement in the health sector, the trip to Tegel Airport was part of their programme.

The guests from Sub‑Saharan Africa went to the airport to see the German Air Force’s flying intensive care unit, the Airbus A310 MedEvac.

Ulrich Werner, medical director on board, explaining how patients are transported
Ulrich Werner, medical director on board, explaining how patients are transported© Marco Parge

Medical care in the sky

The Airbus is used to transport sick and wounded people over long distances. “Air ambulances are used to take the pressure off medical infrastructure on the ground or to provide treatment that cannot be carried out locally,” Ulrich Werner, the medical director and senior consultant on board, told the UN Ambassadors.

Depending on how many people need to be transported, Werner is accompanied by a medical crew of up to 25 people, who provide care around the clock.

Up to 44 patients can be transported on stretchers in the A310. Six of these patients can be transported in units that provide the same standard of care as a bed in an intensive care unit in a hospital. The crew can provide the patients with modern intensive care, including artificial respiration.

In ten further units, equipment can be installed to measure vital statistics such as blood oxygen levels and heart rate. The readings are displayed on a centralised computer screen, thus enabling the medical team to monitor patients even when they cannot treat them, that is, during take‑off, landing and severe turbulence.

Ulrich Werner, medical director on board, explaining the MedEvac to the UN Ambassadors
Ulrich Werner, medical director on board, explaining the MedEvac to the UN Ambassadors© Marco Parge

Evacuations can be carried out worldwide

“We usually have two or three patients on a flight,” Werner explained. “In the past 15 years, our Airbus was full around ten times.” This was the case after natural disasters when humanitarian assistance was provided, and after terror attacks, for example in Djerba, Tunisia.

The visitors from Africa remained on the ground this time, but were able to learn a lot about the flying intensive care unit.

Martha Pobee, Ghana’s Ambassador to the UN, was very impressed by the aeroplane. “I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “It is amazing what Germany does to repatriate its soldiers and citizens. We can learn a great deal from this in Africa. It is very impressive how Germany also uses the plane to help other countries.”

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