Air Methods might relocate from Hagerstown to Martinsburg

July 30, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A partnership announced Friday to establish an air medical transport base at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport might prompt Air Methods Corp. to relocate its service from Hagerstown Regional Airport, officials said.

Air Methods is partnering with Charleston, W.Va.-based HealthNet Aeromedical Services, West Virginia University Hospitals and West Virginia University Hospitals-East to establish the new base, which could be operational within 90 days, according to the announcement.

To avoid "oversaturating" the market, Marty Delaney of Air Methods said the company might need to relocate its operation from Hagerstown Regional Airport.

"We're evaluating opportunities to relocate the Hagerstown aircraft within the region," said Delaney, an area business manager for the Colorado-based company.


Air Methods' closest base to Hagerstown currently is in Johnstown, Pa., and much of the business for its Hagerstown base is in nearby Pennsylvania counties, Delaney said.

Greg Larsen, Hagerstown Regional Airport's business development manager, said he was aware of Air Methods' interest in opening a base in Berkeley County, but had not received any notice that they intended to relocate.

"We do regard them as an asset to the airport and we hope they stay here," Larsen said.

Air Methods, which has operated at Hagerstown Regional Airport since November, will provide the aircraft, pilot and mechanic for the new base south of Martinsburg and Cross said the medical crew will be supplied by the hospital.

HealthNet's new base will be the company's sixth in West Virginia and will close a large gap in coverage, company representative Randy Cross said. The nearest HealthNet base is in Morgantown, W.Va., Cross said.

Response times to reach patients in the Eastern Panhandle who need to be flown out of the region for lifesaving care are expected to be substantially reduced with the new base, officials said Friday.

Flights from out of state to reach patients in Berkeley County typically take 12 to 15 minutes, officials said Friday.

The new base, to be serviced by a Eurocopter EC130, will be the primary medical helicopter service for WVUH-East's City Hospital in Martinsburg and Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va.

"Previously, we had to rely on out-of-state medical helicopter providers for emergency air flight services," Anthony Zelenka, chief administrative officer at City Hospital, said in a press release. "This will certainly make a difference in providing more immediate EMS services in our area communities."

"Along with Air Methods and West Virginia University Hospitals/WVU Hospitals-East, we have been looking at the feasibility of having a base in the Martinsburg area for some time," Chip Sovick, president and CEO of HealthNet, said in the press release. "We have determined that there is an immediate and long-term need and are pleased that we are able to offer this service."

In addition to transporting patients between hospitals, the new service also will be available to respond directly to accident scenes.

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