September 13, 2007

Apollo, Deccan Aviation offer air ambulance service

Apollo Hospitals Enterprises and Deccan Aviation, partners in a new heli-ambulance service plan, hope to rope in medical insurance companies to drive up the market.

A large number of emergency cases need air-lifting for timely medical attention and helicopter service being expensive, it is up to health insurance companies to make it affordable by offering it in their policies, said Ms Sangita Reddy, Executive Director, Operations, Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, and Capt. G.R. Gopinath, Executive Chairman, Deccan Aviation, here on Wednesday.

Talks are on with 3-4 insurance providers and the concept could be a reality soon pending approval of the insurance regulator, they said at the demonstration of the service.

The Apollo group has made 400 emergency air-lifts in the past two-and-a-half years and each trip can cost the patient Rs 1-2 lakh depending on the distance to the hospital, or around Rs 75,000 an hour, Ms Reddy said. With a formal policy, the cost could be brought down.

Corporates tie-up

Another mode would be to allow corporates to tie up with insurance companies for the service.

According to Ms Reddy, up to 10 cases a day across the country could be requiring emergency air-lifts.

“The time has come for insurance companies to step forth and provide medical insurance which covers air ambulance services, on the lines of Western countries,” Capt. Gopinath said. “An alarming number of patients or accident victims succumb without medical help in the first or golden hour [of a medical crisis]. There is an urgent need to plug this gap by providing immediate medical assistance which also includes air-lifting.”

Third-party administrator MediAssist India P Ltd is sharing the cost with Apollo Hospitals, said Mr B. Madhavan, CEO, MediAssist.

Deccan Aviation, the 10-year-old chartered helicopter operator, has a fleet of 10 helicopters and two small planes stationed at Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Surat and Katra in Jammu & Kashmir.

Apollo will offer the services of Deccan Aviation’s helicopters at its centres in Bangalore, Delhi, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata, where it has either roof helipads or landing facilities. One of Deccan’s helicopters took off from Jakkur, 30 km away, and landed within 15 minutes at the 250-bed New Apollo Hospitals in south Bangalore.

The service, part of Apollo Emergency Specialists 1066, will be available within half an hour of call, along with onboard life support systems, trained personnel and care during flight, said Dr Umapathy Panyala, COO, New Apollo. Creating the landing facility would be another onus on hospitals, he said.

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