India's first air transfer of a Covid-19 patient was carried out on Sunday with a critically-ill man flown from Kolkata to Chennai for treatment, ICATT Kyathi Air Ambulance said.
"A 58-year-old male Covid-19 patient was air-lifted in a twin engine aircraft from Kolkata to Chennai today (Sunday) in a German isolation pod," the air ambulance's Director Rahul Sardar told IANS, adding that this was the first time a Covid-19 patient was transferred from one city to another in India.
"Earlier, we had air-lifted a Covid-19 cured patient from Delhi to Chennai for him to have a lung transplant at MGM Healthcare," he said.
The company's specialist medical team comprising of a cardiac anaesthetist and paramedics had reached Kolkata on Saturday evening to carry out the necessary preparatory activities.
On Sunday, the patient was transferred to Kolkata airport via a 'green corridor' in 30 minutes.
The flight duration between Kolkata and Chenna was 2 hours and 15 minutes. From the Chennai airport, the patient was shifted to MGM Healthcare via another 'green corridor' in 15 minutes.
The patient was on ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) during the transfer process.
"The entire aircraft and the German-made isolation pod will now be sanitised," Sardar said.
Sardar said the company will be adding one more aircraft to its current fleet consisting of two aircraft and a helicopter. It will also be adding four more pods, each of which cost about Rs 14 lakh.
"Our fleet is a mix of owned planes as well as leased one. We have based our aircraft in Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad," he added.
Helicopters are suitable for a flying radius of 400 km and for anything more than that distance, the aircraft will be used.
As regards the cost of air-lifting a patient, it may vary depending on the travel distance.
About the demand for air ambulance services, Sardar said the company gets about 10-15 calls per day for shifting of Covid-19 patients.