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Air Evac Signs Lease With County

By Staff | Dec 16, 2009

An Air Evac Bell 206 Long Range helicopter sits on the current helipad at Wetzel County Hospital. The company will build a hangar and additional helipad adjacent to this pad before moving their local operations from the Ohio County Airport to New Martinsville. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

It is now official. Air Evac will be relocating its local base of operations to Wetzel County Hospital. The Wetzel County Commission and Wetzel County Building Authority executed a lease with the emergency air transportation company Dec. 8.

Bradley Troy, Air Evac’s program director, said the company is excited about the move and they are currently in the process of finding someone to construct a needed hangar and helipad near the existing helipad at WCH.

“Rural Americans are three times more likely to die from traumatic injury or illness than their urban counterparts,” noted Andy Arthurs, senior director of base operations for Air Evac, referring to the reason Air Evac began its operations almost 25 years ago. It was founded in West Plains, Mo., after a couple residents there died from illnesses that could have presumably been helped with quicker access to care.

Air Evac operates 89 bases in 14 states in areas where Arthurs said other providers often may not go due to low population density, high Medicaid population, poor reimbursement, and other factors.

The company has over 100 Bell 206 Long Range helicopters, which he said were “rated one of the safest helicopters in the world.”

Marge Knight, R.N., WCH Chief of Emergency/Outpatient Services, said it currently takes approximately 90 minutes to get an acute trauma patient out by helicopter.

Once Air Evac is based at the hospital and if a helicopter was there at the time of the incident, approximately one hour of that transition/wait time would be eliminated. In heart emergencies, she said every 15 minutes of delay in reaching acute care results in a 50 percent increase in heart damage.

In other matters, the bid deadline for the courthouse portico ceiling repair project has been extended until Jan. 12, 2010, as recommended by the county’s architectural advisor Swiss Valley Associates. The extension was necessary as no bids were submitted for the project.

This project would eventually replace a temporary ceiling that has been in place for several years. The scope of work includes removing the existing plaster ceiling and installing a new one per original courthouse design.