EMS Ambulance 25 Oct 2021
How do toilet and bathroom breaks work on an air or road ambulance?
Over the years, we’ve learned quite a lot about the questions and concerns people have around medical repatriations (medevacs). Surprisingly, one of the most common questions is about lavatories.
Or maybe it’s not so surprising! Going to the toilet may seem like a minor detail when you’re organising an international medical repatriation, but it can become a worry for patients’ families often as the departure draws near. What happens if someone needs to take a bathroom break during a road ambulance trip? Does a private air ambulance actually have a lavatory? These are good questions and nobody should feel embarrassed about asking them.
Here, then, are some quick answers…
In the air
Toilet visits don’t tend be an issue for air ambulance patients since they’re often confined to a bed, or unconscious, so not normally in a position to get up and use a restroom. In these situations, toileting works in the same way as it does on the hospital ward. Your patient will usually be fitted with a catheter in the hospital (or even a colostomy bag), though our air ambulance paramedics or doctors are also able to fit a catheter if needed. Alternatively, they may be wearing a medical diaper / incontinence pants (we also carry these in the aircraft). It’s worth pointing out that the air ambulances do have onboard toilets as well for anyone on board who’s able to use them.
If your patient is travelling with a medical escort on a commercial flight, they’re likely to be more mobile. The doctor or paramedic escorting them can help them get safely to the aircraft toilet, and go into the booth with them if they need support. For long-haul international journeys, we always aim to travel Business Class, where the lavatories are usually more spacious. As with air ambulance jets, the medical escorts can also carry catheters with them in case they’re needed. It goes without saying that, whatever a patient’s personal and medical needs during the journey, they’ll be treated with dignity and respect at all times.
On the road
Our road ambulances are purpose-built for long-distance travel: up to 2,500km and sometimes even further (see this case study from Athens to Aberdeen for one multi-border repatriation). But, as you’d expect, there isn’t room for a lavatory – so we take rest breaks during the journey. Typically, the drivers stop about once every four hours, or after around 400km, so everyone on board can take a break. This is usually at a service station, where you can use the on-site facilities (with support from the medical team if necessary). But they can take unscheduled breaks too. If the passenger or patient needs to stop and use the toilet, we can do that at any point on the trip. We also have disposable urinals (male and female portable bottles) and bedpans onboard. The driver will pull over and stop if the patient needs to use these. As with flights, we also carry catheters.
Do you have any concerns or worries about this topic during an ambulance journey? You can always call our repatriation specialists and speak to them direct. Call or WhatsApp us through our Contact page. We’ll be really glad to help put your mind at rest.
Read on! Find out what’s on board a long-distance road ambulance in this blog article.