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Air ambulance prepared for increase in family island flights

Air Ambulance Services (AAS) President Dr. Franklyn Walkine said yesterday that the company is prepared for an increase in demand for flights to transfer suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients on Family lslands.

According to Walkine, since the country’s borders reopened on July 1, the company has transferred numerous people from islands like Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Berry Islands suspected of being COVID-19-positive.

“Before this new surge we would transfer a number of patients who were suspected,” he said.

“If we are called to transfer suspected or confirmed cases, we will do both, and we’ve been doing both.”

As The Bahamas continues to experience a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, reporting more cases over a two-week period than it did over the past four months, Walkine said it’s anticipated more of AAS’ services may be required in the coming weeks and days.

Grand Bahama has reported more than 70 cases since July 8. Meanwhile, two cases have been confirmed on Cat Island as well as cases on Bimini, the Berry Islands, Abaco and Cat Cay.

When asked whether he’s concerned about AAS’ capacity to handle the increasing demand for transport of suspected and confirmed cases from the Family Islands, Walkine said, “AAS has the capacity to transport any COVID-19-positive patient in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

“We have two aircraft and three patient isolation units to ensure safe transport. Most recently we’ve been to Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Berry Islands.”

In early April, Walkine explained, after the first COVID-19-related death in late March, it took 24 hours to transport a patient from Bimini because there were no isolation (ISO) chambers in-country.

Kim Johnson-Rolle, of Bimini, was the first confirmed case of a person dying from COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

Since then, AAS has acquired three ISO chambers.

Walkine said, “Every time we transfer a COVID-19-positive patient or a suspected case, we have to use the negative-pressure isolation chamber. We have to use that to protect the staff.”

In Parliament yesterday, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said many Family Island residents are concerned over their island’s ability to handle confirmed cases.

Walkine said, once requested, AAS is equipped to safely transfer any potential cases to New Providence.

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