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Looking for more sustainable ambulance services

Helgeland Hospital's three ambulance boats traveled 153,160 km around Helgeland in 2021 and consumed 645,000 liters of diesel. Now the health organization is taking the initiative against the industry to find a more sustainable solution.

Ambulance boat, Helgeland, Helgelandssykehuset, Mo i Rana
En av Helgelandssykehusets tre ambulansebåter. Foto: Helgelandssykehuset

The yearly distance covered by the ambulance boats on Helgeland is equivalent to three round trips by sea to New Zealand, so there is little doubt that both the climatic and economic savings can be significant. Fuel prices in recent years have not been particularly health-friendly either.

The specialist healthcare service in Norway has set itself a climate target of reducing its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030. The regional hospital and the healthcare institutions' joint purchasing service, Sykehusinnkjøp are currently working on a preliminary project to assess the possibility of using more environmentally friendly ambulance boats in the future. The preliminary project recently received a commitment of NOK 300,000 from the Research Council.

The current contracts for ambulance boats expire in spring 2025 and can be extended by two years. The wish is to use emission-free ambulance boats when the next contract period starts, if the preliminary project shows that this is realistic.

It is an exciting exploration the Helgeland Hospital has taken the initiative to, and to make the necessary assessments that are required, the hospital, together with Sykehuskjøp, has invited input from maritime specialist communities and from companies within health technology, digitalization and green energy. This includes suppliers and research environments who will also be central to later developing a possible emission-free ambulance boat.

Pål Madsen is the pre-hospital clinic manager at Helgelandssykehuset HF. The clinic is responsible for transporting and treating patients before they arrive at one of the two hospitals in Helgeland.

- The market today offers emission-free vessels, but innovation is required to produce boats that can serve a time-critical service like an ambulance boat does. They must be able to respond quickly, have a good range and high speed. They should also have the option of early emergency medical treatment as well as virtual remote consultations, he says on the hospital's website.

Before this decade is over, the ambulance boats on Helgeland can perhaps cover their long distances with batteries produced in the same region.


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