Local air ambulance provides critical care for US COVID-19 patients in Caribbean, Latin America

OPA-LOCKA, FLA. (WSVN) - A medical team based in South Florida is providing critical care in the air, as they fly all over the Caribbean and Latin America to help patients from the U.S. with COVID-19.

For more than six weeks, the staff on board Jet Rescue’s air ambulance has been flying to various locations to help save coronavirus patients.

“Obviously, it is extremely important to get American citizens to better medical care, especially if they have COVID-19,” said Chief Flight Medic Angel Rodriguez. “It’s a very high-stress environment.”

Two medical personnel as well as the two pilots wear biohazard suits, masks and goggles on board the fully equipped medical jet, which provides the same function as a patient being brought to a hospital’s isolation unit.

“On the flight we have a cardiac monitor, with sealed vitals all the time,” said Dr. Armando Valle with Jet Rescue. “If the patient is critical, if he’s on a ventilator, we have a critical care ventilator, a portable ventilator, all the time with the patient.”

Just over three weeks ago, the crew flew a 63-year-old Miami man from St. Martin to Miami International Airport after he contracted the virus while vacationing on the Caribbean island. After the three-hour flight, he was transported to Aventura Hospital for life-saving treatment.

“This service is very important, because it is the connecting DNA between patients who are sick, American citizens who have fallen ill due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and they are simply out of their home country,” said Steven Shai Gold with Jet Rescue. “It connects them to their home country, to better medical care.”

Gold said Jet Rescue, based at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, has stayed ready well before the first COVID-19 cases were reported on this side of the Atlantic.

“For us, transporting isolation patients is just another day in the office. We have been ready for this. We have had the equipment for the last three years,” he said. “This is an outgrowth of a strategic planning effort, based on lessons learned from the SARS, from the MERS epidemics that were small scale and not pandemics, but certainly have encouraged us to understand where we need to be as a critical care transport organization.”

Jet Rescue’s air ambulance service has proven to be vital in the fight against COVID-19. Since March 11, they have flown 18 flights with patients on board suffering from the virus.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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