The government has inaugurated a new air ambulance service, as pledged by President Mohamed Muizzu. This service will employ a specially equipped seaplane for domestic flights, primarily for the purpose of emergency medical evacuations. During his visit to Manadhoo Island in Noonu (N) Atoll, President Muizzu revealed that the air ambulance service will utilise a Dash-8 aircraft in conjunction with a seaplane for patient transportation.

“The seaplane will be used [only] during the day. The advantage of the seaplane is that it can approach any island in an emergency,” he said. Both the seaplane and a Dash-8 aircraft have been specially fitted to serve as air ambulances.

Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Mohamed Ameen, in a since deleted social media post on Wednesday, demonstrated the workings of the air ambulances for the first time.

Minister of Health Abdulla Khaleel said at a news conference on Thursday that a seaplane would be used to transport patients from islands where there was no airport or where airports were further away.

“Once this is introduced, it will be a huge relief to the people, the people who are experiencing critical conditions, as the time it takes to provide the treatment will be shortened,” Khaleel said.

Air ambulance flights will also travel abroad to India, Sri Lanka and Thailand; while flights to India and Sri Lanka will be direct, flights to Thailand may need a stop-over, the health minister said.

The introduction of air ambulance services was a pledge made by President Muizzu during his campaign when he said that a Dash-8 aircraft will be converted into an air ambulance to fly patients to Thailand.

The government has obtained special permission from Sri Lanka to fly the air ambulance to the country and, according to Khaleel, while Sri Lanka will allow the air ambulance to fly to the country within two hours of a request. Similar agreements are being sought with other countries, the minister said.

The air ambulance service will be complimented with a land craft and a sea craft, the health minister added. Five nurses, five doctors and five technicians have been recruited for the service and they will be trained for the service, he said.

“In the future, the number [of air ambulance specialists] may have to be increased depending on demand. Initially, 15 specialist staff have been recruited,” Khaleel said.

The minister said the air ambulance will be fully equipped for emergencies and will have oxygen, ventilators, defibrillators and emergency injections onboard.

A 38-seat aircraft will be converted into an air ambulance with the capacity to carry two patients at a time but with added space to accommodate more stretchers should conditions require, Khaleel said.

“The sea ambulance’s space allows carrying only one patient,” the health minister said.

When asked how much it would cost to convert the existing plane to an air ambulance, the minister said that all the expenses would be borne by Island Aviation Services Ltd, the operator of national carrier, Maldivian. However, the ambulance will be operated from the state budget and an agreement will be signed with Island Aviation, he said.