Maine’s emergency helicopter fleet braces for COVID-19 to get worse (Bangor Daily News)

(Bangor Daily News) — LifeFlight of Maine helicopters have transported COVID-19 patients in need of more acute care since the start of the pandemic. But now, the combined pressures of a stubborn pandemic that won’t subside and a stressed medical system that’s short on beds and staff are catching up with the emergency helicopter service that’s been around since 1998.

Just recently, LifeFlight saw one of its most serious days since the pandemic’s start. Over the weekend of Oct. 30-31, 11 of the 18 patients the service transported who had tested positive for COVID-19, were in respiratory failure or had COVID-19 symptoms. Worse, with hospitals’ capacity stretched, the organization’s helicopters have occasionally been prepared to take off with a patient in need only to find out that a hospital bed is no longer available.

As hospitalizations remain high and Maine continues to see hundreds of new coronavirus cases daily, LifeFlight’s leaders fear the situation is only going to get worse.

“We’re going to have to work hard over the next six months,” said Thomas Judge, LifeFlight’s executive director, “or we are going to see empty chairs at the table.”

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