Airline medical emergencies reports not required

By WEEK Reporter

Airline medical emergencies reports not required

October 28, 2012 Updated Oct 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM CDT

Boston, Mass. -- Ray Bertino was 30,000 feet up over the Atlantic Ocean when "I felt very distressed," said Bertino.

He suddenly felt sick and disoriented when he made his way to flight attendants.

"Frankly, I don't think they took me seriously at all," said Bertino.

An anesthesiologist on the same flight stepped up to help.

"He (anesthesiologist) seemed a bit out of his element," said Bertino. "He didn't know exactly what sort of equipment they had on the plane.

Bertino's OK, but his case highlights a risk you take every time you fly.

If you had a heart attack, seizure, or any medical emergency, would you get the help you need?

"You hope there's someone else on that plane who can take care of you," said Dr. Melissa Mattison of Beth Israel Deaconess.

Boston's Team 5 News Investigations discovered no one is required to keep track of potentially life-threatening medical situations on airplanes, as stated on the FAA's website.

"They're not reported to anyone," said Dr. Mattison. "They're completely kept in house in each airline."

The last time the FAA looked at the issue was 1993, when they estimated 3 medical emergencies a day on US flights.

But last year, Medaire, a private company that provides medical supports to some airlines, received more than 22,000. That's 61 every day.

Dr. Mattison is trying to shine a light on this problem.

While the FAA requires certain items, what's actually in the medical kits can vary wildly on every airline and on every plane, leaving doctors ill-equipped to help.

"As responder in a medical emergency," said Dr. Mattison, "it can be very confusing to find the supplies that you need to care for the patient."

Mattison says reporting should be standard practice for every airline; they should use the data to come up with consistent medical kits.

"Then you can tend to the passenger who's become sick," continued Mattison. "Then you're not spending all your time digging through a suitcase filled with stuff."

NewsCenter 5 reached out to the FAA repeatedly for reaction to the doctors concerns but did not receive a response.

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