The spate of recent deaths on long haul flights mostly due to caused by deep vein thrombosis has prompted the city’s medical fraternity to deliberate on ways to tackle the problem.
On Wednesday, doctors from private hospitals and airlines who met at Holy Family Hospital in Bandra unanimously agreed that fliers with prior health complications should be extra cautious as airlines have limitations on “providing emergency medical aid”.
There is a physician’s kit on board to be used by doctors and first-aid kits, which the crew are trained to use. But, during an emergency there is no option but to wait for the plane to reach its destination, they said.
"Even if Air India or Indian agree to divert the flight and do an emergency landing, commercial airlines would not do so as it is very expensive,” said Dr Lata Nakhwa, Head Medical Services Department, Air India.
Some suggestions: Dr Lata Nakhwa, Head Medical Services Department, Air India (A-I):
She suggested that A-I could have portable defibrillators — a device to restore normal heart beat, ECG machines and anti-coagulant medicines — it stops blood from clotting easily — on board. "These suggestions are in very primitive stage so we cannot really comment on the implementation,” she said, adding that A-I is concentrating more on telemedicine.
Dr Mahesh Shirke, Chief Medical Officer, Go Air:
He insisted that fliers should disclose their previous medical records and be informed about the medical facilities that the airline provides. “For instance, we do not provide ambulance. So if a flier informs us in advance, we can arrange for one," said Dr Shirke.
Dr Punita Masrani, MD Aviation medicine, Med Solutions
“Aero-medical evacuation or having helipads for emergency landing would be of immense help,” she said, adding fliers with ailments could travel by dedicated chartered aircrafts, which have mini ICU units. “We are still working on insurance cover for aero-medical evacuation but have not got it yet," said Dr Masrani.
Dr Bharati Nagraj, Senior Medical Officer, Airports Authority of India
Crew on board should be extensively trained to detect deep vein thrombosis. There could a system to transmit the message to a doctor on the ground. This will help the crew on board to handle critical cases better.