On 1 January 2008, the mobile emergency medical service (SAMU)
of the Loire department (the 42nd department in France), which is attached
to the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in the Rhône-Alpes region
of France, celebrated 20 years of helicopter operations. These operations
began with the Ecureuil helicopters operated by Helicap. Then, on 1 July
1997, the EC135 took over.
Interview with Dr Guy François Jomain,
Was the switch from the Ecureuil
to the EC135 a significant change?
Guy François Jomain: Yes. We started using an aircraft
that was bigger and better adapted to the task at hand.
The four-seat configuration can accommodate crew and
medical team, and the fourth seat can also be used for an
extra nurse or paramedic. The ambulance area, which is
independent of the cockpit, has a specific and ergonomic
layout. We were the first mobile emergency medical
service in France to use the EC135.
For which type of EMS missions do you use
G. F. J.: 98% of our flights are in response to emergencies
and our activities are equally divided between two types of
mission. The first type of mission is to provide a primary
response at the actual scene of the accident or medical
emergency. In four-fifths of these cases we administer
medicine, while the remaining fifth of this time is equally
divided between paediatric transport and trauma surgery.
We have to land in built-up areas, beside rivers or in
the middle of the road. Our second type of mission
is to provide transport between hospitals, as part of healthcare
transfers and networks in the fields of cardiology,
neurology, neurosurgery, traumatology, paediatrics,
neonatology, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Are you satisfied with the maintenance
and support that you receive?
G. F. J.: Yes, we’re very satisfied. The maintenance
periods do not interfere with our services because
SAF/Helicap organises them very well, and also
provides replacements for the grounded helicopters
during these periods.
In terms of support, we had set a maximum limit of
four to five hours for any unavailability, but this is very
rarely exceeded or even reached.
How do you rate the EC135?
G. F. J.: This is a high-performance helicopter. We are
one of the mobile emergency medical services that
operate effectively thanks to these aircraft. The helicopter
unquestionably saves lives. It also transforms
the work of the medical teams, provides a comfortable
transport environment and ensures, through its
promptness and reliability, that healthcare channels
involving several teams run smoothly.
We operate in the second largest region of France,
which has areas of high urban density and numerous
rural and hilly areas. We work with a network of four
university hospitals in the Auvergne region and
dozens of hospital-based or private practices. The
helicopter allows us to spin a veritable spider’s web of
medical cover that lets nobody escape its care and
protection. It provides an incomparable means of