After finally settling technical problems tied to its fleet of air ambulances in Northern Norway, ambulance operator Babcock now faces another problem: sick pilots. The lack of pilots to fly Babcock’s air ambulances left them grounded again this week.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” Maria Jahrmann Bjerke, a state secretary in the health ministry, told newspaper VG. “I can well understand that such a situation is creating new concerns for the people of Finnmark.”
Babcock confirmed in a press release that the lack of pilots reporting for duty would “reduce the availability of air ambulances in the coming days.” Babcock stressed that it has 103 pilots including those on stand-by, “but when we have so many pilots who are ill at the same time, we must also rely on pilots who aren’t on duty and who both can and will step in when there’s a need.” In some cases, the off-duty pilots would also have to use regularly scheduled airline service to get to the bases where the air ambulances are located.
“Once again we’re stuck here in Eastern Finnmark without proper ambulance coverage,” complained district doctor Hanne Lossius in Berlevåg to state broadcaster NRK. “This is unacceptable.”
It wasn’t until just before the Christmas holidays that Babcock had a working fleet of aircraft, after weeks of groundings. The state has, as an emergency measure, made military aircraft available but Babcock remains responsible and has apologized for its ambulance crisis after winning the contract for air ambulance service last year.