The story of a shockingly-high medical transport bill is making news in middle America today.
And, like all these high air ambulance bill stories, it seems to cast the whole industry in an unwanted light.
WOWT in Nebraska reported that a patient was charged $25,000 US for a mere 46 mile transport in a medical helicopter.
At about $543 a mile, you can’t blame the patient’s husband for questioning whether it was necessary to transport her by helicopter. Nor can you blame him for thinking that clearly, there must have been a mistake on the bill.
These are stressful situations patients and their immediate families run into quite often. Because of the nature of emergency air transport for a critical-care patient, cost and need is often not discussed thoroughly beforehand.
A news source in Arizona reports that a medical helicopter transporting a trauma patient from northern Arizona made an emergency landing in the desert near New River, a community just north of Phoenix, Monday evening.
The ambulance was, according to law enforcement, forced to make the emergency landing after smoke was discovered emanating from the cabin. The air ambulance made a successful hard landing in a desert area near New River Road and Circle Mountain Road.
Following the landing, firefighters rapidly transferred the trauma patient from the helicopter to a ground ambulance, which took the patient to a nearby trauma center.
Thankfully, none of the Guardian Air flight crew on board were injured in the hard landing.
As always in these situations, the FAA and NTSB are expected to investigate the landing and the cabin smoke that forced the ambulance to land.
A fatal crash of an emergency medical helicopter in 2011 that killed 4 people has now been linked to text messaging.
Bloomberg reports that an EMS helicopter pilot flying over Missouri had sent and received text messages prior to the aircraft running out of fuel, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The August 26, 2011 crash killed all on-board, including a patient being transported between hospitals, the pilot, a flight nurse, and a paramedic.
The NTSB apparently found seven documented text messages sent or received by the pilot before the helicopter went down. Some of these texts were reportedly related to making dinner plans after work.
According to NTSB records, the pilot had not slept well the previous night, and was aware that the helicopter was low on fuel before taking off to pick up the patient.
The area of eastern Central Mississippi known as the Golden Triangle will soon be home to a new helicopter air ambulance base.
This week, MedStat EMS announced its plans to establish a base for a MedStat Air medical helicopter at GTR (Golden Triangle Regional Airport).
Officials have said the Columbus base will cover a 75-mile radius and provide support for ambulance crews in Monroe County.
MedStat EMS is headquartered in Winona, MS. The EMS / air ambulance company already serves nearly 320,000 people in a service area that covers well over 8,000 square miles, according to the company website.
The MedStat EMS helicopter base expansion into the Golden Triangle, which is formed by the cities of Columbus, Starkville, and West Point (and the three counties Lowndes, Oktibbeha, and Clay), will further add to their already wide coverage area.
Auditor general John Doyle has warned that the provincial air ambulance service in British Columbia, Canada, may be putting its patients at risk.
Doyle’s report alleges that the air ambulance provider lacks sufficient monitoring and clear goals.
Ambulance dispatch decisions are often inadequately reviewed, the auditor claims. It goes on to surmise that the service does not fully assess whether dispatched flight paramedics are in the best locations to meet air ambulance patient needs.
Other concerns revolve around sufficient procedures in place for reporting as well as addressing patient safety issues.
Extrapolating the information in Doyle’s report, the main argument seems to be that the British Columbia air ambulance service should be (and should have been) monitoring and analyzing data in order to improve performance and safety.