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Air Methods medical transport negotiating service in W.Va.

July 07, 2010|By DON AINES
  • The Air Methods Maryland medical transport service has been operating out of the Rider Jet Center at the Hagerstown Regional Airport since November 2009.
File photo,

An air medical transport company that began service at Hagerstown Regional Airport last fall has been in negotiations with West Virginia's air medical service to provide service out of Martinsburg, but no deal has been struck, according to an official with Air Methods Corp.

"For a number of months, we've been in discussions with HealthNet regarding a joint relationship in that area," Ed Rupert, Air Methods' senior vice president for community-based services, said Wednesday.

"There is no agreement on moving the Hagerstown base to Martinsburg," he said.

Air Methods Maryland has averaged 29 flights a month during the first six months of 2010, according to company data. Fifty-seven percent of flights were interfacility transports, typically from one hospital to another, with 43 percent being transports from the scene of an emergency, such as a vehicle accident.

Colorado-based Air Methods Corp. opened Air Methods Maryland in November 2009. At the time, the company was operating air ambulance services from more than 250 bases in 43 states, a company official said.

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HealthNet Aeromedical Services was established in 1986 and is West Virginia's statewide air medical service, according to its website. Air Methods provides the aviation services to all of HealthNet's bases, Air Methods spokeswoman Tracey Budz wrote in an e-mail.

"Since Air Methods is still in negotiations with HealthNet, we cannot discuss the logistics until a formal agreement is signed," Budz wrote in response to a question about whether Air Methods is considering moving the Hagerstown base to Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport or opening a separate base in Martinsburg.

"Our negotiations have centered around a community-based operation," Rupert said.

Air Methods Maryland in Hagerstown, from where the LifeNet 81 helicopter operates, is a community-based model, where the company provides aviation services as well as medical service while a patient is en route to a hospital, according to Air Methods' website.

HealthNet Aeromedical Services is a hospital-based model, where Air Methods Corp. provides aviation services, while employees or contractors with customer hospitals provide in-flight care, the website said.

"Functionally, for the community, there's not a lot of difference between the two" models, Rupert said. "Both entities provide the same services," taking patients to the nearest appropriate health care facility, he said.

Air Methods Maryland serves Franklin and Fulton counties and portions of Bedford and Adams counties in Pennsylvania, providing interfacility transports and scene transports, said its medical director, Dr. Bruce Foster. In Western Maryland, the company provides interfacility service and backup service to the Maryland State Police medevac helicopters, he said.

"There are occasional mutual-aid calls in West Virginia when there is not a West Virginia-based provider available," said Foster, who also is chief of emergency medicine at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital.

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