In an effort to improve the provision of emergency medical services in the northern parts of Botswana, last week saw the much anticipated launch of Okavango Air Rescue (OAR).
An emergency helicopter rescue service, OAR will service residents and tourists in Northern Botswana and the Central Kalahari.
Okavango Air Rescue aims to provide an around-the-clock Maun based service. Emergency medical situations, most especially in extreme cases and in which the patient is in a remote or secluded area, have previously had to deal with the challenge of limited accessibility. OAR aims to tackle this problem.
Though Botswana safety regulations typically restrict flying to daylight options, OAR has attained special permission from the Civil Aviation for the helicopter to fly at the pilot’s discretion in a life threatening situation and weather permitting.
Functioning in a similar manner to the renowned Swiss Air Rescue operation “REGA”, OAR is a private organisation financed by the annual contributions of its Patrons. Positioning Botswana on a similar plain with regards to state of the art medical services, OAR’s primary objective is to achieve a broad-based patronage serving citizens, residents and tourists travelling within the range of operations. OAR provides them with the opportunity of a medically necessitated air rescue in the event of an emergency.
The contribution is not an insurance premium, but is a donation that assists to keep the helicopter airborne. Additional funds will be sourced, on invoice, from a patron’s insurance company after a medically necessitated rescue is complete. The patron will not be required to make any personal payment to OAR related to this invoice. Annual patronage contributions range from P125 for Botswana citizens, P150 for Botswana residents and P175 for foreign tourist. Each patron will be issued with an identifying personal membership card on receipt of his payment.
“In the event of emergency, patrons are advised to call the designated emergency call number 995. Once membership is established and verified, the call will be handled and evaluated by experienced medical personnel,” said Christian Gross, OAR’s Director. “The beauty of it is that Okavango Air Rescue’s services will complement all existing road and air ambulance services already operating in Botswana. We are in talks with these companies to ensure they are aware that OAR offers the services of experienced medical personnel, fully up-to-date equipment and seasoned pilots.”
Membership is valid for 12 months, effective from the date of payment of the contribution. A patron is entitled to one free medically necessitated rescue within the year of membership. OAR will only fly for patrons and patronage is neither transferable, nor refundable.
“Our medical doctor, Dr. Kruck, has a long association with REGA (www.rega.ch), an emergency service in the Swiss Alps delivering a rescue service similarly in remote areas. This similarity has resulted in Okavango Air Rescue being established and in the purchase of a Bell Jet ranger 206III helicopter, now fully customized and medically fitted. We can react to an emergency in poorly accessible areas almost immediately and provide the best care possible for those within the Maun area,” said Gross.