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Air Evac Explains Possible Move

By Staff | Aug 6, 2009

(Editor’s note: Contrary to some recent media reports, Air Evac is not definitely moving its local base of operations to the helipad at Wetzel County Hospital. The move is still in the discussion stage.)

Andy Arthurs of Air Evac Lifeteam was present before the Wetzel County Commissioners on July 28 to give more information about the Air Evac’s possible relocation near Wetzel County Hospital. They are currently stationed at the Ohio County Airport.

Air Evac is in negotiations with WCH for a possible site by the hospital for this medical air ambulance. This would include, on site, a hangar, office space, and a mobile barrack that would house the personnel who are on-call 24 hours, seven days a week. This would include a pilot, EMT, and a flight nurse. A five-year lease with the Wetzel County Hospital is in the plans.

Arthurs gave a talk to the commissioners and the Wetzel County Building Commission that included the background of Air Evac and how it was started in 1985 to help in rural and remote areas in the United States. He told of Air Evac having 88 bases in 14 states in America. “Areas just like here is where the needs exist,” explained Arthurs. “We bring you this service to be able to transport people to a cardiac or trauma centers when needed.”

He continued outlining how Wetzel County Hospital would be just steps away from the helipad and a helicopter waiting to transport a patient in need. Arthurs spoke of creating a joint awareness involving the WCH and the community.

One building commission member asked the question of why Air Evac was leaving the Ohio County airport where they are located now. Arthurs told the board member, “That’s a good question, and honestly we messed up in the location,” he further explained, “After a year we realized those hospitals in that area are on the receiving end of getting patients, not sending them out.”

County Commission President Don Mason pointed out that some of the residents living near the hospital are concerned about more helicopter noise of take offs and landings.

George Couch, chief executive officer of WCH, said, “We are only going to be taking in an extra flight or one-and-a-half flights a day compared to what we are doing right now. If it’s you or a relative that needs out of here (transported out of WCH) having the helicopter on site will make you feel better about it.”

He noted that the whole time he has been at WCH there have been only two complaints about helicopters landing at the pad, one involved a large chopper that came in and the other complaint was a chopper that had to make an emergency landing due to fog. He added, “We do think it’s a progressive move for this hospital and it will benefit the hospital.”

One employee from Air Evac brought to the attention of those present at the meeting that once the 911 center is completed, they will not being flying even close to the school.

Marge Knight, chief director of emergency and outpatient services of WCH, was also present to discuss the importance of Air Evac being so close to the hospital. “When we fly someone out of Wetzel County Hospital, it’s a matter of life and death. With heart patients, the longer you wait, the more heart damage you will have.” Knight also pointed out that WCH had 300 trauma patients this year and they transported out 465 patients, not all by helicopter. She remarked not all of those transported out where critical care patients, but there is a “golden hour” of getting a critical care person to a trauma or cardiac hospital.

Knight discussed how cardiologists in other hospitals are waiting an hour for a patient to arrive when transported out of Wetzel County Hospital. “They are literally in the heart catheterization lab waiting on the patient.”

Couch added that WCH soon will have a first class emergency room when the construction is finished on the expansion. He stated that WCH is currently doing approximately 10 to 15 emergency flights out now per month. “Sending a patient out of WCH all depends on their need,” said Couch.

Arthurs stated that if Air Evac is approved to be in the area, they will have an open house to answer questions, give a presentation to the public, and let them see and hear the Air Evac helicopter take off and land.

Mason stressed that a public hearing needs to done. Couch suggested the use of the hospital’s the new conference room and letting the public meet the Air Evac team, see the helicopter, and be informed of what a benefit this could be to the community.