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Air Medical Transport (Life Flight)

The IWK/EHS Critical Care Transport Team – LifeFlight helps by providing care to patients requiring inter-facility critical care transport by air or ground. A partnership between the IWK and EHS LifeFlight links neonatal, pediatric and obstetrical critical care trained personnel with the Emergency Health Services system to ensure appropriate and timely transport of patients in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

This team is committed to maintaining expertise in critical care. When not responding to a mission request, the team also provides support for critical care areas within the IWK and does a portion of clinical shifts both in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Neonatal Care Unit. The obstetrical team members are part of the core staff of the Labour and Delivery Unit and participate in transport missions when needed.

Patients requiring the Lifeflight service are not planned admissions and therefore we will help provide the items that you will need until you are able to bring them from home.

How we help

When a doctor needs a patient transported to a higher level of care (IWK), they place a call to the EHS centralized dispatch centre. The sending physician is linked to the IWK Medical Control Physician (MCP). Depending on the type of mission (labouring mother, child, youth, or newborn) an MCP can be a maternal fetal medicine specialist, neonatologist or pediatric intensivist. The MCP gives medical advice and decides whether a LifeFlight transport is needed. 

If the mission is a go, the dispatch contacts the team and the pilots. The team is made up of a neonatal/pediatric flight nurse, a flight respiratory therapist and, when needed, an obstetrical flight nurse.

The pilots check the weather for suitability for flight. Weather, distance of flight and aircraft availability will determine air craft choice. Either a King Air fixed wing (small plane) or a Sikorsky 76 helicopter will be taken. If the weather is not suitable for flying, the team will respond by ground ambulance.

Upon arrival, the team will perform a detailed examination of the patient and intervene if emergent care is required. The MCP and the team consult to develop a plan for safe patient transfer.  Families are welcome to remain at the patient’s bedside throughout treatment, and if authorized by the pilots, a family member may be permitted to travel with the patient.

The MCP is available by cell/satellite phone throughout the mission to give medical advice to the team.
Transport by LifeFlight helicopter allows the team to land directly at the IWK helipad. If the mission uses the Fixed Wing (or if the weather is bad), the patient arrives at the Halifax International Airport and is taken by ambulance to the IWK.