B.C. air ambulance helicopters get night vision technology

Three air ambulance helicopters in the B.C. Emergency Health Services fleet now have night-vision technology, enabling first responders to reach more patients when it’s dark.

Linda Lupini, executive vice president of the Provincial Health Services Authority and BCEHS, says weather and geography still pose challenges for air ambulances, but the technology will help many patients who need critical care.

“Patients now who need emergency care in more remote areas or transfers to health facilities can be flown both day and night,” Lupini said.

The technology uses night-vision goggles, which collect all available light and amplify it.

Danny Sitnam, president and CEO of Helijet International, the primary helicopter service provider for BCEHS, says the technology will help keep operators safe.

“[It ensures] the safest possible flying conditions during night-time and low-light conditions,” Sitnam said.

4th helicopter equipped later this year

B.C.’s emergency air ambulance fleet has a total of four helicopters and seven fixed-wing aircraft, based across the province.

The three helicopters equipped with night-vision technology are based in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. The Ministry of Health says the fourth helicopter in the fleet, based in Kamloops, will be equipped with the technology later this year.

The cost for the project, $1.7 million plus training, was shared between Helijet and B.C. Emergency Health Services.

BCEHS says it responds to nearly 7,000 patients by air ambulance every year, with 2,000 transported by helicopter. The majority of those patients are in the province’s North and Interior.

It also calls upon charter aircraft in different areas of the province as required.

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