The Dutch Trauma Helicopters also known as the ‘Lifeliners’ have been gaining popularity in the Netherlands. Operated by ANWB-Medical Air Assistance (part of the Royal Dutch Touring Club), these helicopters have become a lifeline for Dutch people since 2016 when the air ambulance arrived in the country.
Currently, ANWB-MAA operates four H-135 helicopters from stations in Amsterdam VU Hospital (Lifeliner1), Rotterdam Airport (Lifeliner2), Volkel Air Force Base (Lifeliner3) and Groningen Airport (Lifeliner4). These choppers fall under Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) and work 365 days 24/7. Apart from these helicopters deployed to carry out medical operations, ANWB-MAA also keep two helicopters in reserve that are used for pilot training and to fulfil operational gap if any service chopper goes for periodical overhaul.
Though these flying lifeliners are operated by highly trained pilot, the medical requirements inside the helicopters are fulfilled by hospital trauma centres that equip the choppers with crew, a nurse and a trauma physician. These nurses along with their regular medical training receive additional training on navigation and safety procedures since they have to assist the pilot in the cockpit in various flying operations. After completing both the training modules (medical and aviation), these nurses join the service as HEMS Crew Member.
On the other hand, the physician, while sitting inside the helicopter cabin, maintains regular contact with the emergency room on the ground and assists them in procuring all essential elements for further treatment once the helicopter lands. However, in critical situations the physician joins the car ambulance, where the medics have more space compared to the helicopter, to give additional treatment when the patient’s condition requires as much.
With a team of around 30 pilots, ANWB-MAA makes sure that all the operations are carried out smoothly, 24/7. Being based in the Netherlands, the company complies with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) demands where rules for single pilot Commercial Air Transport (CAT) HEMS flights apply to the organisation. Each of its pilots goes through a very vigorous training programme called Crew Resource Management (CRM) with an annual repetition course.
Since these operations are conducted by crew members that belong to different backgrounds, it becomes very essential for ANWB-MAA to keep updating their training programmes in order to maintain high level safety and avoid any miscommunication.
In return, ANWB-MAA is paid by trauma centres for providing high quality service to them. The main hospital trauma centres (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nijmegen and Groningen) are funded for this task by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports.
Apart from rendering its services to HEMS, ANWB-MAA also runs an ambulance service operated by an H-145 helicopter for the northern Dutch Wadden Islands. As a part of their daily operations, the air ambulance transports non-critical patients from the islands to mainland hospitals for further medical treatment.