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Local airport will be home to air ambulance service

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By Geoff Hamill

 

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Some high-tech health care is coming to Washington County.
Air Methods, a Colorado-based company, will be locating at the Lebanon-Springfield Airport in July, and with the company will come the ability to transport patients in need of immediate medical care to surrounding hospitals much faster.

Leslie McCabe, area business manager for Air Methods, said her company will be opening its twelfth base in Kentucky with the opening of the local site. She said the new base will allow the company to cover Washington and Marion counties, as well as others in the area.
“On a local level, once this site opens, we’ll be able to  cover 11 counties in that service area,” McCabe said. “Before, those areas were somewhat picked up by some other bases. Now, they’re able to get service faster and more expeditiously. If someone needs to go to a Level 1 facility, or they need a specialty crew, we’re now able to service that area.”
With a local base, she said crews will be able to arrive on scene much faster than before.
“It used to take us longer to get there, and ETA (estimated time of arrival) is everything in this industry,” she said, adding that there will be sister support from around the area.
When it opens, the local airport base will feature a crew of one pilot, one flight nurse and one flight paramedic on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. McCabe said crews will utilize a mobile home located on airport property as housing during their shifts, and they will be able to rest, eat, or do anything necessary while on duty, yet still be on site at the airport.
“Like any hospital job, there are rotations. There will always be a fresh crew on duty, ready to go and serve, when and if they are called, no matter what time of day or day of the week,” McCabe said.
Craig Arnold, chair of the Lebanon-Springfield Airport’s board, said Air Methods signed a one-year lease on hangar space and a six-month lease on the mobile home.
Arnold said Air Methods has been great to work with, and the location of the new service was completed quickly.
“It’s been about 60 days total since we started talking with them,” Arnold said. “We went through the process of getting the leases signed, and they are supposed to be here July 1.”
Arnold added that the local airport was a good fit for Air Methods because of some recent modifications at the airport’s hangar, as well as the mobile home being rented for the crew members.
“It was pretty much ready for anybody to come in,” Arnold said.
Kevin Devine, Washington County’s emergency management director, said the addition of an air ambulance service being located in the community will be a big asset.
“This is a big step. I definitely think it’s a good opportunity for the community to have something like that here in this county. It’s a tremendous thing, especially for the size of our county,” Devine said.
Devine estimated that air ambulance services are utilized about 10 to 15 times per year in Washington County, and he said having the service based here will provide quicker response times in getting a patient from the scene of an accident to a hospital.
“The ones (helicopters) we’ve been getting here lately come from Danville or Campbellsville, but this will still cut down on flight time,” he said. “Right now, a lot of times we’re waiting on helicopters to arrive, so we’re transporting the patients and meeting them at the hospital. This will increase our scene flights, and we’ll be able to land on scene. By the time we could get them ready to move, they can be landed on the scene.”
Devine added that local emergency personnel will at times train with helicopter crews to help both sides be aware of how they need to work together.
McCabe said Air Methods has had base in Kentucky since 1982, and  the company is now located in 43 states across the nation, employing about 3,000 people. She said nationwide, Air Methods has transported about  98,000 patients  per year over the past three years. In addition, the company has logged 9,000 flight hours in Kentucky over that time period, and more than 123,000 hours nationwide over a three-year period.
“What separates us from the rest of the companies is that we really pride ourselves on doing the right thing, which is investing in the company. Dividends go back into the company as an investment for safety,” she explained. “Last year alone we spent over $20 million for safety and technology upgrades. Just in Kentucky, our critical care staff, nurses and medics average 13 years of experience on the job, and our pilots average 16 years on the job. They are highly trained and know they are the best in the industry. They know we have the most updated equipment and technology, and are the strongest provider in the industry.”
Payment for Air Methods’ services are made by a patient’s insurance, according to McCabe. She said it is just like having an ambulance come to your house, except this is a specialty service.
“Most insurance pays a portion of that, which is similar with every air medical service,” she added.
Air Methods plans to be up and running by mid-July, and McCabe said a special open house event is planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at the airport. She said the public is welcome and invited to attend and meet the crew and get an up-close look at the helicopter.