Helicopter Ambulance in Croatia Finally to be Established

Katarina Anđelković

helicopter ambulance in croatia
Photo: Jurica Galoic/PIXSELL

October 4, 2023 – “We are within reach of the establishment of an Emergency Helicopter Medical Service”, Minister of Health Vili Beroš proudly asserted after yesterday he landed in one of the four helicopters purchased for the final fulfillment of an old promise. It seems that, finally, the Ministry is about to establish the services of helicopter ambulance in Croatia.

A test flight from the Velika Gorica Aviation Technical Center to the Dubrava heliport in Zagreb marked the imminent start of air emergency services in Croatia, writes 24Sata.

Emergency helicopter medical service will be established in four locations – Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka and Split. Croatia chose the offer of the Italian-Spanish-Croatian bidder Eli Friuli, and the helicopters were procured for seven years in two groups – for the coastal and continental areas. They are a little different – the coastal ones are a little bigger and adapted for flying over the sea. The difference is that the coastal ones will also fly at night, while the ones from Zagreb and Osijek will only fly during the day.

Two state-of-the-art Airbus H145 for coastal bases and two flexible Airbus EC135 for urban and rural areas of Zagreb and Osijek are coming as well. They should be in the air in continental Croatian within the next six months, and in the coastal area within the next nine months, just before the tourist season. Eight people fit in the helicopter – in addition to the pilot and the pilot crew, there will be a doctor and a technician, that is, a nurse. There is room for transporting children and accompanying parents.

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Special Design for Emergency Medical Use

“Helicopters are specially designed for the Emergency Medical Service; they are not classic helicopters adapted to this service, but the other way around. It was not engineers but medical experts who designed them. This is the only helicopter that allows the doctor to sit at the head of the patient and intubate them. We thought about all the details, including the difference between urban and rural and the coastal area, that is, our islands”, explained the Croatian Minister of Health Vili Beroš.

The bases include the Brač airport for the Split helicopter, Rijeka airport, Osijek airport, and the Velika Gorica Aviation Technical Center for Zagreb. Split has the Firule heliport, the Delta helidrome will serve Rijeka, Dubrava has its own in the hospital’s parking lot, while a temporary operating area has been chosen for KBC Osijek. Beroš announced that there are plans to build helipads for Osijek, Rijeka, and Zagreb hospitals. A police helicopter remains in Dubrovnik.

Eli Friulia will take care of the helicopters and servicing, as well as pilots, who will provide the contracted 1,500 flight hours per year, while the Ministry of Health provides medical staff. After receiving a notification or call, the helicopter must be in the air within three to five minutes. In case of bad weather and the inability of the helicopter to take off, for example, due to a storm, the action at sea will be coordinated with speedboats.

“Staff training will start very soon, carried out by the contracted company, all supervised by the Civil Aviation Agency, and should be completed by the New Year. The interest of the employees is very high, and the applications are already arriving, which makes me very happy”, said the head of the Institute for Emergency Medicine, Maja Grba Bujević.

Helicopter Ambulance in Croatia Serving Foreigners

In the coming period, Minister Beroš pointed out, the Croatian public health service will work out the method of charging foreigners for the services of helicopter ambulance in Croatia.

“We will provide all residents and visitors of Croatia with adequate care within the framework of the golden hour, which absolutely increases the chances of survival and reduction of disability from certain injuries. This is indeed a great day for all healthcare workers and for me as a minister because I have fulfilled my initial promise. We want to put the patient in focus. That’s not a platitude, that really is our mission in life”, said Beroš.

On the other hand, the HELP association, which has been advocating for the establishment of an Emergency Helicopter Medical Service for years, would have a number of questions for the minister.

“If we were invited, we would say congratulations, but we would also ask the following questions: what is the vision for the Croatian Emergency Helicopter Medical Service after seven years? How many hospitals are prepared for the reception of helicopters on the roof or transport without the use of ambulances?” They also wonder how many helicopter bases in the right locations in Croatia are prepared, how many medical personnel (emergency medicine doctors or anesthesiologists, medical technicians, and nurses) are ready to work on the helicopter, and all of Croatia is to be covered within the “golden hour” with four helicopters at the airports.

Apart from Dubrava, Split, and Karlovac, not a single Croatian hospital has a helipad. The one in Dubrava covers the needs of all hospitals in Zagreb, and the one in Karlovac was built thanks to a donation from the US Army European Command.


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