The first succesful flights to save human life were carried out in Poland after the World War I with the use of planes belonging to the military forces and aeroclubs.
After the World War II, in 1955, Ministry of Health and Social Security created civilian medical aviation, which would work as a part of public health care. The task of its organization was given to Tadeusz Więckowski – a great pilot, member of the Home Army and a soldier in the Warsaw Uprising. Soon there were 15 Medical Aviation Teams set up, as well as the Central Medical Aviation Team in Warsaw. The teams were set up in a way that enabled them to operate around the whole country. The tasks of those teams were to transport the sick and hurt people, medicine, blood, vaccines and medical equipment. Additionally, medical consultants were being taken aboard, so they could carry out complicated medical operations in remote parts of the country.
These teams were equipped with S-13 biplanes, which were created in Poland using a design based on CSS-13 airplanes, but modified to enable transfer of one patient in a lying position. Later the teams started to use one-engine planes, such as Jak-12M, Jak-12A, PZL-101 Gawron and AN-2, as well as multi-engine planes, such as Super Aero 45, L-200 Morawa, Turbolet. In 1960s some teams also received helicopters type SM-1 and SM-2. In 1975, all of medical aviation started to use helicopters type Mi-2.
The basic team operating these planes consisted of a pilot, a nurse or a feldsher, and – on helicopter teams – a mechanic. Later on, doctors from nearby hospitals would join the teams to attend to the patients in critical condition.
In 2000, the Minister of Health, Franciszka Cegielska, created the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS). Central Medical Aviation Team was dissolved, and in its place Polish Medical Air Rescue was created in 12 May 2000. Now it’s an uniform structure, financed by the Ministry of Health. In every HEMS base there were hired pilots, doctors, nurses and paramedics. Mi-2 helicopters were equipped with a proper medical equipment and necessary medicine. Today, Polish Medical Air Rescue consists of 21 regional HEMS bases, 1 seasonal HEMS base and 1 EMS transport team.
The changes resulted in high standards for medical emergency and 4 minutes (currently 3 minutes) operational readiness. The number of emergency flights rose dramatically. Nowadays the helicopter teams finish over 8 000 missions per year, 70% of which are HEMS flights. A HEMS team is able to start treating patients from their arrival and quickly transport them to the nearest hospital within the so called “golden hour”.