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Region gets new air medical transport service

November 20, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- An air medical transport company based in Colorado began service out of Hagerstown Regional Airport this week, following a several-week gap after STAT MedEvac ended operations there in mid-October.

Air Methods Maryland started Hagerstown-based service at 8 a.m. Sunday, flight paramedic and outreach coordinator Eric Warren said Friday.

STAT MedEvac officials cited a decrease in service requests as the reason for their decision, but Warren said he believes the need for air medical transport in the region can sustain a Hagerstown base.

The base at the airport, which was unveiled during a media open house Friday, consists of four flight paramedics, four nurses, four pilots and a mechanic, all of whom are employed by Air Methods Maryland.

The helicopter will fly primarily to hospitals in Western Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, with a rough radius of about 90 minutes.

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"We can basically go get patients anywhere," Warren said.

Air Methods' model is community-based, meaning they don't have contractual obligations to transport patients to any specific hospital, business manager Howard Gant said.

"We're here for the whole community," Gant said.

Dr. Bruce Foster, chief of emergency medicine for Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital, will serve as medical director for Air Methods Maryland.

The helicopter used for medical flights is a Eurocopter EC 135 with dual engines, flight paramedic Ron Brown said. The helicopter averages a cruising speed of about 145 mph and generally has a patient in the air about 25 minutes, Brown said.

The helicopter comes equipped with night vision goggles -- something Brown said has proved instrumental for both safety and efficiency -- as well as terrain avoidance warning systems, satellite weather, navigational and tracking systems.

With the new base, Air Methods offers air transport service to 43 states, Gant said.

"We fly over 150,000 hours each year," Gant said.

Air Methods, which began in 1980, is the largest air medical transport company in the United States, with more than 250 bases. It has a combined fleet of more than 300 aircrafts, Gant said.

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