Airbus Helicopters, December 07, 2020 - The first lifesaving flights were performed in Poland after World War I, using aircraft belonging to the military and aeroclubs.
In 1955, the Ministry of Health and Social Security created a civilian medical aviation unit as part of the healthcare system.
Soon there were 15 Medical Aviation Teams established, along with the Central Medical Aviation Team. They transported sick and injured people, medicines, blood, vaccines, and medical equipment. Medics also were taken aboard so they could carry out complicated medical operations in remote parts of the country.
In 2000, the Ministry of Health created the current HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service). Central Medical Aviation Team was dissolved, and the Polish Medical Air Rescue was established in its place. Now it is a uniform structure, financed by the Ministry of Health – which is a unique situation in the world.
After joining the European Union in 2004, Poland began preparing for an intensive modernisation of its infrastructure, including roads and railways. Consequently, the HEMS aircraft fleet was modernised, as helicopters are best suited to assist victims of road accidents. This is why in 2008 the Polish Medical Air Rescue ordered 23 new H135/EC135 helicopters, along with a flight simulator.
The first of these aircraft arrived in Poland in September 2009, and two months later, it began service from Krakow – kicking off a technical revolution in the Polish Medical Air Service. In 2015, thanks to EU funding, LPR purchased four additional H135s from Airbus so it could establish four new bases in the country. Expanding the number of rotorcraft led to an increase in the availability of rescue helicopters, as well as a reduction in time needed to reach patients.
Today, LPR maintains 22 HEMS bases nationwide (21 permanent and one seasonal), operating a total of 27 H135/EC135 rotorcraft. This service also includes the Airplane Transport Team, stationed in Warsaw. Its crews fly two Piaggio P.180 Avantis, with two new Bombardier Learjet 75s to be received in 2021. Each base employs pilots, doctors, nurses, and paramedics. Some 750 people work for the Polish Medical Air Rescue, including 120 pilots, 100 paramedics and 140 doctors.
The intensive modernisation of Polish HEMS resulted in high standards for medical emergency, with the number of emergency flights rising dramatically. The helicopter teams currently perform over 12,000 missions per year, 88% of which are HEMS flights, primarily responding to accidents. Each team can begin treating patients from arrival and quickly transport them to the nearest hospital within the so-called “golden hour.” The modern H135/EC135 helicopter is able to reach an accident site 60 kilometres away, depending on the wind, within several minutes.
In 2020, LPR crews flew a total of 11,000 missions, 10,650 of which utilised helicopters.