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ROCKET HEMS and Henley Air Kids’ Flight - Initiative

By Garth Calitz

President John F Kennedy once stated that “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” Thinking in this vein led to the creation of ROCKET HEMS and Henley Air’s Kids’ Flight Initiative. South Africa currently has six times the global average of paediatric deaths. Simply put, of the approximately 1 million children born in South Africa every year close to 33,000 will not see their fifth birthday, many of these deaths are completely preventable with the necessary emergency intervention. That’s where Kids’ Flight will make a massive difference by getting the right people and resources to the right little patient at the right time.

Henley Air under the guidance of the group chairman, André Coetzee, launched ROCKET as a stand-alone HEMS provider just over 3 years ago in the South African HEMS industry with their fleet of Bell 222 and 230 Helicopters. Henley Air is incidentally the largest single operator of the types in the world.

ROCKET, which has become the leading independent and unaffiliated emergency medical services, helicopter air ambulance and air rescue provider in South Africa, and Henley Air, saw the need for an air ambulance service for children in need of emergency services who do not have medical aid in South Africa and decided to do something to improve the situation and created Kids’ Flight. Sadly, the reality in our country sees the overwhelming majority of children live in poor households and in rural settlements. These two factors contribute to limited access to both emergency care and ongoing specialist care, which in turn leads to higher death rates in children.

When considering the population dispersion of children within rural communities in SA, their socio-economic profiles and the logistical advantages of an aeromedical service, it becomes clear how a children-focused helicopter ambulance service can make a difference by getting the right people and resources, at the right time, to the right patient.

Unfortunately, current emergency services fall short of bridging the gap between where the patient is and where they need to be. There are niche units that provide good quality critical care retrieval services, however, these units are either predominantly working in the inter-facility transfer space, or are reserved for patients who have health insurance.

This leaves the majority of South African children without any options when faced with a life-threatening emergency. 76.6% of all trauma-related injuries occur either at the child’s home or on surrounding roads. In South Africa, 21% of all pedestrian deaths are children, with a significant proportion succumbing to injuries due to a delayed emergency services response to the scene of the accident. Most HEMS services are located within big cities where they are not really needed as the road infrastructure allows for rapid access, ROCKET has decided to move aircraft to more rural areas like Polokwane and Kimberly where they can get to outlying areas much quicker.

Kids’ Flight aims to assist between 20 and 40 children per month with time-critical emergency care, but, and there always is a but, for them to continue and even increase their service they need the financial assistance of the public and corporate world. Donations will ensure that any child without medical aid and who meets the clinically accepted flight criteria is airlifted in the Kids’ Flight helicopter air ambulance. No delays for funding authorisation, the little patient is the priority. Inter-hospital transfers of children meeting the requirements are also included. Time-saving means life-saving. Kids’ Flight is registered as a Non-Profit Company (NPC) in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act of South Africa under registration number: 2020/932212/08. Since Kids’ Flight is an NPC, it does not have shareholders or members. The Company is structured to the benefit of underprivileged children requiring helicopter emergency flights. It is operated as described and governed by its MOI.

"There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats children." – Nelson Mandela

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