Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Air medical service is a crucial link

By David Poulsen

One in three Americans live in rural areas where getting urgent medical care for events like cardiac emergencies, stroke and trauma are extremely difficult due to the fact that appropriate medical facilities are so far away. Since 1990, more than 22 percent of America’s hospitals have closed. According to the Center for Rural Affairs, rural hospitals have been closing at a rate of nearly per month since 2010.

Getting timely, appropriate medical care is deadly serious. Trauma doctors refer to the first hour after a traumatic injury as the “golden hour” because during this critical window, the right kind of medical care can lead to vastly better outcomes with regard to saving lives and preserving quality of life. Eighty-five million American who live more than one hour from a hospital with a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center by ground transport can only access these centers within the golden hour because of air medical services. For these Americans, there is literally no way to get appropriate emergency care without air transport.

Emergency air medical transport providers, which most often use helicopters, provide a high level of life-saving care that involves highly trained nurses, paramedics, pilots and state-of-the-art medical equipment that require professional maintainers. The crew only responds when called upon by a first responder or physician — they do not self-dispatch. And when called, they go immediately, helping to expand the reach of hospitals and trauma centers and ensuring that rural communities maintain access to medical care. Air medical transport providers operate in one of the most regulated industries in the country.