Five medevacs in five days – saving lives in Papua New Guinea

17th September 2021

1st medevac of the week – a profusely bleeding woman is met at Kiunga Airstrip by an ambulance

As one of MAF’s busiest programmes, PNG pilots frequently transport the sick and injured by air in under an hour, avoiding days of treacherous travel by road or river. Saving time, saves lives as MAF’s Annelie Edsmyr reports, one busy week in September…

Yet again, MAF proves that time is of the essence.

A short flight can make the difference between life and death for these passengers from rural Papua New Guinea:  

Medevac 1

13 Sept, 34-min flight from Aiambak to Kiunga

The profusely bleeding woman is loaded onto a MAF plane at Aiambak Airstrip

MAF pilot, Joseph Tua, takes off from Mount Hagen when he gets a medevac request for a woman who has travelled from her remote village to her nearest airport in Aiambak, Western Province.

Her journey to her ‘local’ airport has already taken over four hours by canoe to get there.

She has lost a lot of blood and urgently needs to get to the town of Kiunga for emergency treatment as Joseph explains:

‘When I got to Aiambak, I could clearly see she was very weak and close to losing consciousness. We loaded her into the cabin as gently as we could, before flying her and her guardian to Kiunga where the ambulance was waiting for us. I believe it would have taken them at least another two days to reach Kiunga on foot.’

By air, it takes 34 minutes.

Medevac 2

14 Sept, 20-min flight from Tapila to Daru

Joseph has already received a message the night before about his next medevac – a young woman has been badly beaten and needs hospital care in Daru.

She has lost all feeling in her legs and can’t walk or move her feet.

The badly beaten woman is loaded onto a MAF plane at Tapila Airstrip

Joseph has prepared for an early take-off and fortunately the weather is on his side:

‘I was able to reach the village early morning. The patient and her family were already waiting at the airstrip when I arrived. With their help, we loaded her into the plane accompanied by her two guardians.’

Without MAF’s medevac, this journey would have taken at least four days of trekking through the bush with additional canoe travel.

By air, it takes 20 minutes.

Medevacs 3 & 4

16 Sept, 35-min flight from Mougulu to Kiunga

Today it’s MAF’s Jan Ivar Andresen’s turn to pilot the plane.

His double medevac request comes from Mougulu in western PNG.

Jan is just about to clock off for the day when he is notified that two people urgently need hospital treatment.

MAF pilot, Jan Ivar Andresen, takes care of a double-medevac from Mougulu to Kiunga

Jan has to quickly source a second stretcher before heading to Mougulu to pick up the patients.

The first patient is a woman who has been in labour for four days with her second child at Mougulu Clinic, but needs advanced clinical intervention in Kiunga to help her deliver her baby.

One of Mougulu Clinic’s health workers, Sally Lloyd, describes the situation:

‘She had strong contractions and had attempted to deliver her baby for many, many hours, but she just couldn’t deliver. She began to lose strength, and by the morning was totally exhausted. The mother or the baby might not have made it without the medevac.’

When Jan arrives at Mougulu Airstrip, they load the heavily pregnant woman onto the first stretcher but she has difficulty laying down, so she sits on the back seat of the aircraft instead.

The second patient is a young man who has fallen from a coconut tree – he is unconscious for nearly two hours and has injured his back.

Reaching Kiunga only takes 35 minutes by air, instead of a week of overland travel. On arrival, the ambulance meets the plane and takes the patients to hospital.

Mother and baby doing well at Kiunga Hospital

Two days after the medevac, Jan is relieved to hear that mother and baby are doing well:

‘I was so happy to receive a photo of mother and baby looking so strong. Walking to the hospital in Kiunga would have taken six or seven days – not an option in her condition!’

MAF pilot, Jan Ivar Andresen

Medevac 5

17 Sept, 53-min flight from Suki to Daru

Joseph is contacted about a potential medevac from Suki, which is in the western corner of PNG near the Indonesia border.

The patient is a young man who has been hit in the groin by a spear. Due to sheer agony, he finds it difficult to sit or lay down.

A man, hit by a spear, is medevacked to Daru Hospital

With daylight fading, the man is loaded onto the aircraft piloted by Joseph:

‘I was quickly running out of daylight but the weather at my destination – Daru – was good, so I happily continued. I arrived at Daru at 5pm where the ambulance was waiting. Without MAF, it would have taken them a week or two to get there.’

By air, It takes 53 minutes.

Saving time, saves lives.