By David Poulson
One in three Americans lives in rural areas where getting urgent medical care for events like cardiac emergencies, stroke and trauma are extremely difficult due to the distance of appropriate medical facilities. Since 1990, over 22% of America’s hospitals have closed.
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 Americans 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 requiring 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.