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Doctors and Nurses Leave for HEMS Training in Italy in Late January

Three physicians and three nurses are leaving for Italy in late January to get practical training in helicopter-based emergency medical services (HEMS), BTA learned from the HEMS Centre Director, Dr Georgi Deyanov. Emergency medical services can start to be provided once the teams are back and the first helicopter is licensed and has gone through trial runs.
The first of a total of six helicopters is due to arrive after mid-January. The second helicopter will be delivered in mid-June, and the third one should arrive in late December. The last helicopter is expected to arrive by the end of 2026. “We will not be in direct contact with patients,” Deyanov said. Calls will be placed with the emergency number 112. If there is no hospital near the incident or the nearest hospital does not have the necessary level of competence, a helicopter will be sent. “Once it is decided that a helicopter should be sent, we will contact the air operator and the helicopter will fly to the site and will transport the patient to a hospital designated by us,” he explained. The hospital will be expecting the patient. Still, the air operator will decide if the chopper will take off, depending on the weather. If take-off is impossible, the patient will be transported by an ambulance.
The first helicopter will be based in Sofia and the helipads will be located at the St Anna, St Ekaterina and Lozenets hospitals. The second one will be based in Dolna Mitropolia (North Central Bulgaria).
A helicopter can fly a distance of 170 km in one direction, Dr Deyanov said. It can carry one stretchered patient, a doctor, a nurse and possibly one more person. The helicopters will also transport medical teams, blood and blood products, organs for transplantation or medicines.
Deputy Health Minister Ilko Getov said the helicopters will be operated by Bulgarian crews. The helicopters will be serviced in Sofia.
The aircraft will not be used to search for casualties in the mountains, but could be involved in transporting injured people from the mountains to a hospital, Getov said. The first helicopters expected in Bulgaria are not equipped with night vision devices and winches to lift injured people on stretchers. “We have asked the Finance Ministry for funds for the acquisition of two more helicopters, which will make a total of eight,” said Getov. The system could be upgraded with those last helicopters, which will be equipped to search for victims in the mountains. This, however, is within the remit of the Bulgarian Red Cross and the Mountain Rescue Service.
The Health Ministry and Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A. signed an agreement on the supply of six equipped helicopters in late March 2023. They cost BGN 113,438,000 pre-VAT.