Apollo Hospitals, Deccan Aviation to offer air ambulance service

Apollo Hospitals and charter operator Deccan Aviation will be partners in a new helicopter-based air ambulance service plan. The two companies plan to rope in medical insurance companies, to drive up the market.

A large number of emergency cases need air evacuation for timely medical attention. Helicopter services are expensive, and it is up to health insurance companies to make it affordable by offering it as an option in their policies, said Apollo Hospitals executive director for operations Sangita Reddy, and Deccan Aviation executive chairman Capt GR Gopinath in Bangalore on Wednesday 12 September.

The Apollo group has so far made 400 emergency airlifts in the past two-and-a-half years. Each trip can cost the patient Rs1 lakh to Rs2 lakh ($2,480 to $4,958) depending on the distance to the hospital, or around Rs 75,000 ($1,860) an hour, Reddy said. With proper insurance policies, the cost could be brought down. Corporates could tie up with insurance companies for the service, she said.

According to Reddy, up to 10 cases a day across the country could require emergency airlifts. "An alarming number of patients and accident victims can die because they don''t get medical help in the first or golden hour of a medical crisis," Capt Gopinath said. Third-party administrator MediAssist is sharing the cost with Apollo Hospitals.

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 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.