The Wetzel County Commission gave county residents a surprise gift Feb. 6 when they purchased a one-year Air Evac membership for each resident of the county.
This membership agreement covers any Wetzel County resident that is flown by Air Evac from Wetzel, Monongalia, Marion, Harrison, Doddridge, Tyler, and Ohio counties in West Virginia and Monroe County in Ohio. This $98,000 expenditure measures out to roughly $6 paid for each member of the county. Wetzel County residents flown from any of the above-listed counties receive no out-of-pocket expense. The only disclaimer is for uninsured residents. Those residents receive the bill for the Medicare allowable rate, which is about a fifth of the normal bill.
Jadwin stated that Wetzel County Commissioners were thorough with their research on purchasing the service for Wetzel County. He stated that although generally most of the counties covered with the service are contiguous counties, commissioners knew that adding Ohio County to the coverage was essential, as some Wetzel County patients are flown out of the Wheeling hospitals. Jadwin stated that 70 percent of Air Evac's flights are generally from hospital to hospital.
AirEvac has 200 helicopters across 28 states.
As of the day of the agreement, Feb. 19, the Wetzel County Air Evac base had flown 23 flights so far for the month, making an average of about a flight per day.
When asked if he felt patients were being flown too much, Jadwin stated that he did not, as the Air Evac Lifeteam had been talking to first responders in the area about what qualifies as an emergency that requires a helicopter flight.
"The county squads and hospitals realize we are here and realize the difference that time makes," Jadwin said. "When I was growing up, time equalled money . . . In the medical community, time equals muscle or brain matter."
"The sooner we get you to the cath lab, if you have a heart attack, the less permanent damage and rehabilitation time . . . If you have a stroke, if we can get you to the stroke center and use drugs to minimize the blockage, the less permanent damage you have from the stroke."
Jadwin said an individual who has had a stroke needs to get to the hospital within two hours. He stated a heart attack patient needs to be at the cath lab within one hour. "It takes 17 minutes to get to Wheeling from here by helicopter," Jadwin noted. "It takes an hour to drive." He stated it takes 34 to 37 minutes to get to Morgantown by helicopter."
"If you are physically injured, the time makes a big difference to you, as the patient."
"We actually teach the squads and hospitals," noted Jadwin. "We have an educational program that goes on once a month, and we go out and talk to fire departments and teach landing zone classes. "We want them to know the safety of Air Evac. We teach that they don't want to tie this up for something that's non-lifethreatening."
"West Virginia has done an unbelievable job realizing the safety factors. Hospitals and doctors are teaching that it's got to be life threatening or limb threatening. It can't be because someone has got the flu."
Air Evac, which has been around for 28 years, started in West Plains, Mo. "They started the membership program, because in West Plains, it was 90 minutes to the nearest hospital," stated Jadwin. "They patterned this after the Swiss, and once it took off, it took off."
Jadwin says that as of right now, approximately 2,000 Wetzel County residents have signed up for Air Evac's full membership, which is currently being offered at a special "residents-only" discounted rate of $35. The full membership is actually to the AirMedCare Network which includes five medical helicopter companies. The full membership gives coverage from 200 stations across 28 states. Bradley Troy, Air Evac Lifeteam's program director, describes this full nationwide AirMedCare network membership as "a really good deal."
Currently, Wetzel County's Air Evac base includes the following: four full-time pilots, four full-time medics, four full-time nurses, one full-time mechanic, one full-time program director, one membership sales manager, four part-time medics, and two part-time nurses.
Jadwin stated that Wetzel County's deal lasts until Feb. 6, 2015. Those that sign up for $35 a year will receive the extended service for a year from the day their application is received and processed.
Air Evac's community service does not just include their medical transportation services. Jadwin and the Air Evac Lifeteam also service the community through visits to the school and participation in community events. Jadwin stated that just recently the Lifeteam visited Paden City Elementary School, where over 230 students took a tour of the helicopter. The presentation also included an informational trivia game. Students who answered questions correctly had a chance to receive Air Evac gear, including "Airie," Air Evac's stuffed teddy bear mascot.
Air Evac also delivered the game ball to a Paden City High School football game this past fall.
Notably, Wetzel County Air Evac Lifeteam celebrated their fifth anniversary in August 2013. Words by Base Pilot Supervisor Brett DeGarmo at the time, truly describe Air Evac's community impact the best: "I grew up in this area, and I'm so glad to be back, supporting the local area by working for Air Evac Lifeteam," he said. "Almost every person we transport is someone I either know personally, or know someone they know. My friends and neighbors tell me how much they appreciate Air Evac being here and the job we do to help save lives each day."