Flight crew was not prepared to transport suspected COVID-19 patient- GDF
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) said its aircraft refused to transport a suspected COVID-19 patient from Mabaruma, Region One in order to protect the flight crew and other passengers from contracting the infectious disease.
“…the flight crew was not appropriately prepared and equipped to cope with the impromptu transport of a suspected COVID-19 patient,” the GDF said in a statement Friday.
The News Room on Wednesday reported that the aircraft refused to transport a suspected COVID-19 male patient who was experiencing pain in the knee, high fever and shortness of breath.
The patient did a COVID-19 test on Tuesday and is still awaiting the results.
According to the GDF, the aircraft was assigned flight duties to Port Kaituma and then onward to Bemichi, Region One in support of the Ministry of Health to transport medical supplies, return personnel to Bemichi and uplift COVID-19 samples.
However, on its arrival to Port Kaituma at about 14:30h on Wednesday, the GDF said a request was received from Air Corps Flight Operations to proceed to Mabaruma to uplift two patients. As such, after unloading cargo, the aircraft departed for Mabaruma.
Upon arrival in Mabaruma, the pilot and crew observed about 20 persons gathered and 10 minutes later an ambulance arrived. It was then revealed to the crew that one of the patients was bitten by a snake while the other suffered a swollen leg, fever, difficulty breathing and general body pains; all associated with the COVID-19.
The GDF said “after a collective and comprehensive assessment of the situation,” a decision was made by the pilot in command and the remaining flight crew to reject carrying the suspect COVID-19 case.
Because of a departure from its original mission, the Force said “flight crew members were…at risk as their only means of protection was the wearing of face masks.”
The GDF said there were also elderly passengers on board who were at risk of contracting the disease.
It further explained that the transport of suspected COVID-19 cases require special in-flight preparations which include planning and coordination between the Health Ministry and Air Corps to ensure that all are fully prepared and protected.
“Additionally, it was agreed by stakeholders concerned, that such flights would be conducted with the use of suitable isolation chambers to be acquired by the Ministry, as an aircraft is small and so presents high risk of infection,” the GDF said in its statement.
It added that “the decision to leave a patient behind was regrettable and unfortunate,” but the pilot is competent to have made the decision.
According to the GDF, the pilot has been flying MedEvacs (Medical Evacuations) throughout Guyana for the last 15 years and is “always mission and task-oriented to save a life.”
He is said to be one of three senior pilots within Guyana to frequent remote and extremely locations, even at nights to transport patients in need of urgent medical care.
Regional Chairman Brentnol Ashley had told the News Room that the patient was taken to the Mabaruma Hospital.