Two more helicopters will be purchased by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) to ensure round-the-clock medical care can be provided if necessary. They will be based at Tartu Aiport.
The PPA's three helicopters fly for 200 hours every year but the real need is much greater and, in the event of an emergency, they can sometimes already be occupied with other tasks.
Two additional helicopters will be purchased so they will always be one on standby, said Egert Belitšev, the agency's deputy director-general. They will be based in Tartu and will arrive in 2025.
"The goal is to build a second base in Tartu. Not as big as the base in Tallinn, but the base in Tartu would be one where the helicopter's round-the-clock maintenance and initial maintenance could be ensured. At the same time, the conditions [will exist] for the crew to be able to plan and carry out departures round-the-clock," he said.
Landing sites will also be developed at hospitals in Tartu, Tallinn, Pärnu and Ida-Viru county. Currently, the helicopters land next to the hospitals but this can create strong winds which can cause damage, for example, to vehicles in parking lots, Belitšev said.
When transporting patients, every minute is critical so the helicopters must be able to land close to the hospital. The same is true with organ donation, said Jaan Sütt, a member of the management of the University of Tartu Clinic.
"In the case of organ transplantation, we only have a few hours when certain organs are viable [...] If there is a possibility of a lung transplant, this time window is very small," said Sütt. "At the moment we are inevitably dependent on Tartu Airport, but the airport gates are closed at night and on weekends."
Sütt said having the landing zone on the roof of the hospital would be very useful but no firm plans have been developed yet.
"In medical terms, and if we think about the patients, it would definitely be best if the landing site was on the roof of the hospital. From there, we could take an elevator immediately to the ward or to the operation," Sütt said.
Editor: Helen Wright