Swift rescue by helicopter
During the day, Rega’s rescue helicopters are airborne within five minutes of the alarm being raised, transporting emergency medical assistance to the scene of the accident by the most direct route. The following example gives an idea of how a Rega mission in Switzerland could proceed.
Hiking accident – a case for Rega
During their hike, Mr and Mrs K. are making their way down the mountainside from Elm to Flims via the Segnas Pass. Suddenly, Mr K. trips, slides down the steep slope and only comes to a halt when his path is blocked by a large boulder.
Mrs K. can make out that her husband is still moving and conscious. However, Mr K. is unable to climb back up to the hiking path; the injuries to his leg are too painful and he is also bleeding profusely. Mrs K. calls out Rega using the emergency app.
At the Operations Centre, the alarm call is received by flight coordinator Conny Hirt. She asks Mrs K. specific questions about how the accident occurred and about the current situation. Conny Hirt also informs Mrs K. about the correct way to proceed until the rescue helicopter arrives.
Conny Hirt has been employed at Rega as a rescue flight coordinator since 2000. Having qualified as a travel consultant and worked for a number of years as a flight attendant at Crossair, she brought with her extensive experience in the field of aviation. At Rega, she received on-the-job training, during which she acquired in-depth knowledge about both helicopter operations and emergency medicine. Conny Hirt’s high social competence and her knowledge of languages help her in her daily dealings with patients. The shift work and irregular hours, the close collaboration with the helicopter crews and her highly varied duties makes her job particularly interesting.
Every minute counts
The weather conditions on the Segna Pass allow a rescue to be carried out by helicopter. Conny Hirt alerts the crew at the nearest Rega helicopter base over the radio. Within five minutes, the helicopter takes off in the direction of Flims.
After reporting the take-off, paramedic Daniel Enggist receives the coordinates of the accident site, as well as further details of the patient's injuries. During the flight, the emergency flight physician, Dr Ivo Breitenmoser, prepares the medicaments that might be needed. After around ten minutes’ flying time, the helicopter reaches the scene of the accident. The crew spots the casualty at the bottom of a rock face.
Rega paramedic Daniel Enggist has an extremely varied job. In the cockpit, he does all he can to assist the pilot. He operates the navigation devices, maintains radio contact with the operation partners on the ground, monitors the airspace and aircraft instruments, and operates the rescue hoist. At the accident site, Daniel Enggist helps the flight physician to administer life-saving first aid and also assists with the rescue activities. At the base, he is responsible for carrying out the helicopter and material checks.
In addition to medical qualifications, some Rega paramedics are also qualified helicopter mechanics and are therefore able to perform the necessary maintenance or repair work directly at the helicopter base.
Emergency flight physician
Dr Ivo Breitenmoser works at one of Rega's mountain bases as a flight physician. He is also employed in the anaesthetics department of a hospital and has many years’ experience in the fields of mountain and emergency medicine. Assisted by the paramedic, Dr Breitenmoser checks and stabilises the vital functions of the injured patient and prepares him for transport. During interhospital transfers, too, the Rega flight physician bears the medical responsibility for the patient. As a crew member, he also undertakes other tasks: for example, he ensures the safety of accompanying persons on board, and also helps the crew to identify potential flight and landing obstacles.
Safe recovery using a rescue hoist
The pilot, Mario Agustoni, reports to the flight coordinator the helicopter’s arrival at the accident site. As it is not possible to land, the crew decide to use the rescue hoist. The flight physician attaches himself to the hoist cable and paramedic Daniel Enggist lowers him down to the patient.
Now the physician can attend to the injured hiker. He examines Mr K, stops the bleeding, administers painkilling drugs, and prepares him to be transported in the horizontal net. After a short flight suspended at the end of the hoist cable, at a temporary landing site the patient is transferred to a stretcher in the helicopter and then flown to the nearest suitable hospital.
Paramedic Daniel Enggist provides the Operations Centre with the necessary information for the patient to be admitted to hospital. Once the helicopter has landed on the helipad and entrusted the patient to the care of the hospital staff, the mission is over for the Rega crew. After returning to the base, the team check the helicopter and equipment, and replace the supplies that were used during the mission. Now the helicopter is ready to set off on its next mission.
Mario Agustoni has been working at Rega's Ticino base for six years. Every morning, as soon as he has reported for duty, he checks the weather situation, collects information about possible flight restrictions and holds a briefing with his crew. This is followed by a check of the helicopter, which he performs in accordance with an official checklist.
Before taking off on a rescue mission, Mario Agustoni finds out about the landing possibilities on location. At the accident site, if necessary he assists the flight physician or paramedic in looking after the patient. Using his mobile phone, he gives the flight coordinator the medical information that is necessary for the patient to be admitted to hospital. Mario Agustoni’s main task is to ensure that, from an aeronautical point of view, the mission is carried out precisely, swiftly and safely.