May 22, 2024 | Aviation, Innovation, Operations

New stretcher pack rack improves patient care

STARS flight nurse Stuart Grant demonstrates how easy it is to remove the side panel of the new stretcher pack rack.
STARS flight nurse Stuart Grant demonstrates the functionality of the new stretcher pack rack that allows for patient transfer to and from the stretcher without the need to remove medical equipment from the stretcher first.


“The weight saved with the new pack rack allows us to allocate additional payload elsewhere.” — Ray Grenkow, stars captain

In 2019, STARS welcomed the next generation to our fleet with the introduction of the brand-new Airbus H145 helicopter. With these new aircraft, we also introduced a new state-of-the-art medical interior. Supplied by Swiss manufacturer Aerolite, the medical interior of the STARS H145 is designed to be lightweight and functional.

This medical interior is also designed to be adaptable, allowing STARS to stay on the cutting edge of critical care transport. These characteristics are all evident in one of the latest innovations found on-board the STARS helicopter, a redesigned equipment bridge fitted to our on-board stretcher.

The stretcher bridge, also known as a “pack rack,” is a specialized piece of equipment that attaches directly to the sides of the stretcher, with a flat surface to secure equipment across the top of the patient. The new design, initiated by STARS, allows independent removal of either vertical side, eliminating the need to completely remove the assembly when transferring a patient.

Although the pack rack weighs just 3.6kg, it can hold a significant amount of life-saving medical equipment such as oxygen systems, defibrillators, and monitors. Because it is attached directly to the stretcher, medical equipment attached to the pack rack can move with the patient while they are being transferred to or from the aircraft.

STARS crews began training on the use of the new pack rack in January, and it is now in use at every base.

Angela Mazzolini, STARS clinical operations manager in Edmonton, shared how this new tool is helping crews deliver care.

“When preparing a critically ill or injured patient for transport on-board the helicopter, time is of the essence. The ease of transferring the patient onto our stretcher and access to medical equipment is so important for our crews,” said Mazzolini.

“The new pack rack allows us to keep the tools we need right on the stretcher instead of unloading all our equipment and re-attaching it once the patient is secured for flight. This simple but important change is a more efficient use of resources and time. We believe it will
lead to more efficient patient care and contribute to better patient outcomes.”

The new pack rack is certified for all phases of flight and is an integral part of the on-board equipment used during a STARS mission. Thanks to the “clip-in, clip-out” design of the equipment and the fact that it is very lightweight, the sidewall of the pack rack can be removed to allow an easy transition from the STARS stretcher once the patient has arrived at a major trauma centre.

In addition to being a useful tool for patient care, the new pack rack is also popular with STARS pilots.

“We account for the weight of everything we carry on-board, so our equipment needs to be as light as possible,” explained STARS captain Ray Grenkow. “The weight saved with the new pack rack allows us to allocate additional payload elsewhere or simply fly lighter. It’s a great design.”

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