Air medical associations ask for relief for members during COVID-19 pandemic

The Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) and Air Medical Operators Association (AMOA) are requesting specific forms of relief for their members as the critical care transport industry scrambles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air Evac Lifeteam
Air Evac Lifeteam is one of the AAMS members working daily to provide critical care transport services. Mark Mennie/AAMS Photo
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In a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson on March 20, AMOA executive director Sally Veith asked for relief from regulatory time restrictions for air medical operators, their pilots, and mechanics during the crisis.

“AMOA members operate more than 90 percent of the air medical transports in the United States utilizing over 1,100 air medical aircraft,” Veith wrote. “Transporting sick patients to a higher level of care is what we do. As the COVID-19 virus moves through our nation, we are called to continue providing lifesaving missions for those in need whether stricken by the virus or other health emergencies.

“However, the implementation of COVID-19 mitigations throughout the country and within the federal government will impact our operations,” Veith continued, expressing specific concern about the ability of air medical pilots to complete recurrent training and proficiency checks in a timely manner due to the unavailability of FAA inspectors or authorized check pilots. The timely renewal of pilot medical certificates and authorizations for mechanics is also in jeopardy, she wrote.

According to Veith, AMOA plans to submit a petition of exemption for these and other time-constrained regulatory requirements, as “without the ability to extend these due dates, certificate holders may be unable to exercise the privileges of their FAA certificates. This in turn may hinder air medical response capabilities during the current national health emergency.”

Meanwhile, AAMS has petitioned Vice President Mike Pence for regulatory waivers and exemptions to provide state funding for childcare reimbursement for essential emergency healthcare providers and suppliers, and prioritization of certain flights to facilitate the rapid provision of needed air ambulance transportation services.

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On behalf of its members, AAMS also requested a payroll tax holiday, priority access to protective equipment, exemption from National Guard or military duty, as well as specific leave and childcare support to address the challenges of EMS providers and services.

“Our AAMS members are working diligently on the front lines to provide critical care in communities around the world and to ensure the transportation needs of our patients can and will continue to be met,” stated Cameron Curtis, AAMS president and CEO, in a press release. “In some cases, this may dictate changing the mode of transport based on a number of factors including severity of the patient, distance to be traveled, capability of supporting staff, and resource availability.”

AAMS said it continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with the EMS COVID-19 Working Group, hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of EMS. The association is also staying apprised of updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will provide updates as they become available on www.AAMS.org.

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