three new helicopters for SMURs in the region

In Nantes, Angers and La Roche-sur-Yon, hospital emergency services have acquired new helicopters. In Vendée, it was decided to increase the availability of the heliSMUR.

On the helipad, on the roof of the University Hospital of Nantes, a new aircraft: an Airbus H145 D3 twin-turbine.

This helicopter now equips the SMUR in Nantes, replacing the old one, a Bell 429, used since 2014. More spacious, the Airbus H 145 can carry in addition to the crew made up of the pilot and his assistant flight, three carers instead of two before.

“We can associate an additional caregiver, rejoices Joël Jenvrin, director of the Nantes SAMU and head of the SMUR, whether for training or for reinforcement personnel on a heavy intervention.”

The patient is boarded from the rear and as the heliSMUR is a flying ambulance in which care must be provided, the larger volume of this new device will allow the teams to work in better conditions as well as a better support for incubators.

The management of heliSMURs is entrusted to hospital emergency services but their funding is provided by the Regional Health Agency and the State.

Thus, in Pays de la Loire, the markets unit of the CHU of Nantes, competent for the region, published a call for tenders to renew the fleet of emergency service helicopters. There are three, in Nantes, Angers and La Roche-sur-Yon.

The company Babcock won this call for tenders, this company which works in the fields of Defense and nuclear power is also specialized in emergency services.

The budget of €3,838,442 (annual for a 10-year contract) dedicated to this renewal of the region’s heliSMURs therefore involves the provision of helicopters, their crews, mechanics and maintenance, the emergency services of the hospitals taking care of the medical teams.

In Vendée, until now, the heliSMUR of La Roche-sur-Yon was shared with that of Angers. He was based eight months in Angers and the four summer months in La Roche-sur-Yon. But the increase in tourist activity on the Vendée coast has forced an increase in resources in this department. Again, a new helicopter was delivered a month ago, with the same sanitary cabin but with slightly lower mechanical performance.

“We decided, given that the influx of tourists arrives in April in Les Sables d’Olonne, to switch to H24 six months of the year.” explains Dr. Thierry Le Guen, of the ARS.

That of Angers, also renewed at the beginning of April (and of the same type as that of Nantes), can be mobilized 24 hours a day for the six summer months and 12 hours a day for the other six months. It also has jurisdiction for Sarthe and Mayenne.

see the report on the heliSMUR of Angers

The presence of héliSMUR is certainly the guarantee of a rapid intervention, sometimes in inaccessible places and far from hospitals, therefore an additional chance of being saved for seriously injured people, but it is also the means of shortening the time of mobilization of an SMUR team. However, in these times of shortage of emergency physicians, this aspect is not negligible and is clearly mentioned by the Regional Health Agency.

“We save time, we mobilize a team for less time, confirms Dr. Le Guen. The Sarthois SMUR is often closed (for lack of emergency physicians), the helicopter will be able to compensate. Due to the shortage of emergency physicians, we are forced to find measures that will reduce intervention times. It is also more comfortable for patients. We cannot currently complete in human resources, it will improve in the years to come, but we had to take measures in the meantime.”

The goal is for all residents of the Loire to have access to an SMUR in less than 30 minutes, hence the importance of being able to have a heliSMUR.

HeliSMURs have two types of mission: primary transport, on the scene of an accident, wherever a landing is possible. The pilots also have their say in the event of difficult conditions in particular. And the secondary transport that are transfers between hospitals.

In 2021, the heliSMURs in the region carried out 1,200 interventions.

In Nantes, there are two crews per week (one pilot/one flight assistant). One works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the day, the other 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. at night, with a 7-day service.

Yves Develay is one of the Nantes heliSMUR pilots. Like 90% of his colleagues, he acquired his first experience as a soldier. He was for 15 years in the light aviation of the French Army in Germany and in Pau before making a passage by the oil companies to ensure the connection with the offshore platforms. Yves arrived about ten years ago at the SMUR in Nantes on behalf of the Babcock company.

“There is no routine in this profession, he explains. The missions are never the same, the places to land are never the same.”

It is his teammate, Franck Denion, who is in charge of finding the landing zone when it is not a hospital helipad. For this, he is informed by the first aid on site or uses satellite photos. And once at the place of intervention, two pairs of eyes are better than one to identify possible dangers, high voltage lines, cultivated fields…

The Nantes University Hospital is also continuing its work of identifying the “landable” night zones within its radius of action. These are often stadiums that can be lit.

The flight assistant also helps in stretching patients.

As for the medical teams on board, they must receive special training regarding flight safety.