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03 March 2021
A person stands by the open door of a yellow and blue medevac helicopter with the SNF logo on it as it sits on the tarmac

Today, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, two Agusta Westland 109 Trekker helicopters landed in Greece, thanks to a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) that aims to strengthen the capabilities and efficiency of the National Center for Emergency Care’s (EKAV) air ambulance services.

The grant, part of the $500 million-plus SNF Health Initiative, will contribute to a substantial upgrade in the services provided by EKAV by covering patients’ air transportation needs throughout Greece and into Europe.

SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos said, “Access to health care should be a fundamental right for everyone, everywhere. Timely health care should not depend on who a person is, or where in the country they live. With this grant for new aircraft as part of the SNF Health Initiative, we seek—to the best of our abilities—to help enhance the efficiency of EKAV’s air ambulance services and, consequently, the sense of security that every resident of this country is entitled to.”

The Augusta Westland 109 Trekker helicopters, supplied by Leonardo, represent the evolution of the A109 E Power helicopters previously used by EKAV. The new helicopters are 1.5 meters longer than the old model, feature state-of-the-art air navigation equipment, and are capable of transporting a patient by air in compliance with standards set by global health protocols. Among other features, the helicopters include an incubator for the transport of newborns and a negative pressure chamber, and allow for optimal entry and exit of injured and ill patients. The helicopters will go into service within the next three months, as soon as the individual configurations in equipment and the necessary training programs for Air Force flight and technical personnel are completed, among other preparatory steps.

The implementation of the grant was made possible through a collaboration between SNF; the Ministry of Health, which will have ownership of the helicopters; EKAV, which will use them; and the Hellenic Air Force, which will assist in their flight operation. 

In addition to the two helicopters, the SNF grant includes two new Beechcraft King Air 350C airplanes equipped with state-of-the-art air navigation instruments. The new planes are expected to be delivered by mid-March.

The four new aircraft optimize conditions for immediate and safe air transport of ill and injured patients from remote areas of the country to central locations where they can receive the urgent care they need. The aircraft included in SNF’s grant will be used exclusively to enhance the services of EKAV, in order to provide emergency pre-hospital and/or medical care to all, and EKAV’s specialized air ambulance staff (flying doctors, rescuers, nurses) will have the most up-to-date medical equipment at their disposal.

Based on EKAV’s operations plan for air ambulance services, the new aircraft provided through the SNF grant will be directed to air transportation bases throughout Greece (Elefsina, Rhodes, Syros, Aktio, Thermi).

In addition to the procurement of the new helicopters and airplanes, the SNF Health Initiative includes the construction of three new hospitals in Komotini, Thessaloniki and Sparta, expected to be completed in 2025. The hospitals are designed by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano, and are intended to be models in terms of care provided and environmental friendliness. Furthermore, the grant includes the procurement of four new PET/CT scans and their installation at four regional hospitals around the country. Other important components of the grant include strengthening the nursing sector through the procurement of lab equipment, support for educational and research programs, and scholarships for the Nursing Department at NKUA and the educational Nursing Units at Evangelismos Hospital; training programs for the prevention of in-hospital infections and the treatment of trauma (ATCN, PHTLS, ATLS, APLS); support for the child and adolescent mental health sector in Greece; strengthening the infrastructure of Attikon Hospital; and the provision of equipment for the School of Dentistry of NKUA.