homepage logo

WCH Could Be Base For Air Evac

By Staff | Jul 8, 2009

The sound of a chopper landing by Wetzel County Hospital is a relief for the those in need of that assistance to be airlifted out to another hospital and to the patient’s family members who want their loved one to have fastest transit time possible. A full-time medical helicopter staff might be possible in the near future at Wetzel County Hospital through Air Evac EMS, Inc.

Soon the Wetzel Commissioners, Wetzel County Building Commissioners, and George Couch, chief executive office of WCH, will be having meetings to discuss Air Evac having a possible helipad site in New Martinsville.

Air Evac is an air medical service provider. These long-range helicopters transport patients as needed to hospitals that can take on trauma patients and other medical emergencies by providing rapid access. Air Evac locates in rural areas where people need air medical services the most and where response time is maximized.

At a county commission meeting on June 23, Couch informed them of Air Evac’s interest in locating a base of operations here. A proposed lease and agreement with WCH involving Air Evac was discussed. They are presently located at the Ohio County Airport. While they serve a large area from that location, Couch said a more southern base would give them distance from Pittsburgh and Columbus competition.

Couch discussed a possible site for Air Evac adjacent to the Dialysis Center and existing helipad on which a hangar, office space, and a mobile barrack would be located. The barrack would house the personnel who are on-call 24 hours, seven days a week. They include a pilot, EMT, and a flight nurse on site.

“There is the possibility that it will create some jobs here,” noted Couch, discussing the possible outlook of having Air Evac in the New Martinsville area.

He remarked current there are between 16 to 20 flights per month from the Wetzel County helipad. With Air Evac in the area, this could double. Couch brought to their attention that this would allow WCH to have faster service for trauma victims and a possible revenue source for the hospital, through lease payments.

With this five-year lease, explained Couch, Air Evac would construct an additional helipad. This would include EPA and FAA approval. The lease would generate income, but as he pointed out, “Don’t except a large amount, but it will be something.”

“We would not commit any of WCH’s money to this project. It would be at Air Evac’s expense,” noted Couch, explaining the process of the buildings and helipad for this emergency air lift company.

Couch added that Wetzel County Hospital is only a level four trauma hospital, so their primary job is to stabilize patients until they are moved to a larger trauma hospital. “We are seeing an increase in trauma patients.”

He continued, “It’s an exciting project. We are excited about it.”

Don Mason, president of County Commission, replied ” I’m sure there’s going to be some concern of the residents living in that area with the increased volume.”

At the July 7 meeting of County Commissioners, the Wetzel County Building Commission was present to talk about the possible lease with Air Evac in New Martinsville.

Mason explained to the Building Commission that Couch was before the commissioners previously to explain about Air Evac and a possible lease with the hospital. He further explained that he had the Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught look over the agreement.

Mason stated that if the hospital receives up to 20 helicopter flights a month on the WCH helipad, “I might be misjudging, but wouldn’t this (Air Evac) lead to more landings?”

Couch had said in the June 23 meeting that he estimated the number of flights would double.

Building Commissioner Fred Wilcox stated, “We don’t know how many flights would be going in and out. This is a county problem.” He also cited the noise factor involved.

Mason told the Building Commissioners that he has a concern with helicopters coming over a school and the property owners living there. Commissioner Scott Lemley brought to attention of the New Martinsville Grade School and the track area close to this purposed helipad of Air Evac.

Bob Gorby, commission vice president, told the Building Commission that Couch said it would benefit the hospital. In addition to the lease revenue, he said Air Evac would provide faster air lift service for local needs and give further credibility to WCH.

Mason explained that they need to have the hospital administrators present for a meeting and later have a public meeting to let people voice their concerns and approvals.

J.D Bridgeman, Wetzel County Building Commissioner, wanted to know if there was other county owned property to use instead of the area proposed now by the hospital.

Gorby brought up it would have to be out of a flood zone. Mason pointed out in the meeting, “As you can see there are a lot of issues and concerns with this.”

Wells Eakins, building commissioner, asked Mason to have Couch and Air Evac to come in and talk to them. Bridgeman stated, “We, as the Building Commission, need to ask questions.”

Eakins said assessments need to be done.

Mason agreed and set a tentative date of July 28 to have a meeting with Couch and Air Evac to address their concerns.

Air Evac is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. They have the state-or-art operations center utilizing high tech weather monitoring and mapping software, satellite systems, and relay radio equipment.