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Wings Air Rescue adjusts during pandemic

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Wings Air Rescue in Sioux City transports critically ill patients from the scene of an emergency, and provides critical care needs while on the flight. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, a few things have changed.

"I've flown here for 15 years and I've never taken a patient to Ames. And for a while, Ames had a COVID unit that was up and running early in the pandemic. And they took several patient transfers for us." said Flight Paramedic Chris Hunter.

Hunter said one concern with the new destinations, is the additional flight time.

"A flight that might be 30 minutes with no wind, and you have a good head wind, it might add ten minutes and ten minutes might be the difference if you have enough oxygen or not to reach these facilities," said Hunter.

Hunter said that means they have to plan accordingly to ensure a patient will have enough oxygen on the flight.

Another change that happened recently, how they treated COVID-19 patients on board.

"As we've learned more, it's best for them not to get that breathing tube placed and not be on that breathing machine. Their mortality increases by about 50 percent if they end up on a breathing machine, so we've adjusted our practices," said Flight Nurse Roni Kappler.

And even the air medical pilots have had to modify their duties.

"No assistance with the medical professionals or any of the patients at all. We used to be able to help them, load patients, handle patients, or some of their gear, but that we can't do anymore. Simply because of the fact of contamination," said Air Medical Pilot Jamie Stepan.

Stepan said they have to decontaminate the aircraft every time they finish a transport. But Hunter said everyone in the medical field has had to adjust with the COVID 19 pandemic, and he appreciates all the effort because he said in the end, it makes a difference to the patients' lives.

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Leslie London

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