Living in a remote area can be challenging in any number of ways, be it shopping for food or simply finding ways of socialising. However, one of the main obstacles many living in these regions need to overcome is accessing healthcare, which can, of course, be a matter of life and death.
For residents of rural Norway this is a particular problem, not only due to their distance from hospitals, but also because of the harsh climatic conditions that can make travelling by road difficult. To address this important issue and serve its citizens living in the High North (among other places), the Norwegian government has, since 1988, been running the National Air Ambulance Service. This service provides an essential lifeline for citizens who need urgent access to healthcare.
The annual budget of the service is almost 800 million Norwegian kroner ($91 million) and each year around 20,000 patients are helped by the service. Roughly half of these patients are transported by ambulance aircraft, while others are flown by helicopter. In total, the service flies around 18,000 flight hours every year.
The aircraft are usually dispatched for more serious cases and are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, with two pilots and a specially trained nurse. If necessary, a doctor will also travel on board.
Without air links, people living in remote areas of Norway simply would not be able to access healthcare in an emergency, making some regions almost uninhabitable.