“It’s a pretty big deal,” said John Nemes, chief and director of the Marion County Ambulance District, as he explained that in a few months a helicopter service will base a helicopter at the ambulance district headquarters on U.S. 61 North in Hannibal, Mo.
“Our mission is to provide the best resources and patient care possible,” Nemes said, and having a helicopter based in Hannibal “is another step in achieving that goal.” It will be a life-saving addition, he added.
The Bell 206L-4 Long Ranger helicopter will be provided by Survival Flight Inc. Nemes explained, and is a larger helicopter than the standard found in the Hannibal area.
One important difference is that “they prefer to fly a family member at no extra charge,” Nemes said.
Contacted by phone at his company headquarters, Survival Flight CEO Chris Millard explained why family members are encouraged to travel with the patient. “We think it’s important in the time of need that you are able to take someone along. We made sure as we selected our helicopters that we have the ability to carry that additional weight along, with an area for that person to sit.”
Also, Millard said, “we make sure they are able to fly and that they understand they are going to be watching a loved one be cared for. We always offer it. A helicopter takes them a long distance. We will have their loved one in a facility in 30 minutes, and it would take them two hours to drive.”
Survival Flight helicopters are now based at two Missouri locations, in Kennett near the Arkansas border, and in Crystal City, south of St. Louis. The base in Hannibal will serve all of north Missouri and surrounding states, Millard said.
“We are really pleased to be coming there,” he said. “It’s a market that we believe needs to be served, and we are happy to be doing it.
“We will be there sometime this winter,” Millard reported. “We have to hire the appropriate crews. We will be making the best efforts to hire local crews.”
The company will have a three-person flight crew working at all times, he said: a pilot, registered nurse and a paramedic. A mechanic also will be on duty.
Nemes explained that Survival Flight contacted the ambulance district about a year go when it was seeking a Northeast Missouri location.
He noted that the company will not be in competition with Air Evac or other flight services. “It will work with Air Evac to make sure this community gets the best care it can receive.”
The hospital to which patients will be flown will be determined by the care they need, he said. “They will go to the closest and most appropriate facility.”
Page 2 of 2 - The ambulance district is providing the landing pad, and Survival Flight will add a building for its living quarters.
In return for being provided a landing pad by the ambulance district, “they will provide us some additional training,” Nemes said. “Our expense will be returned through the training of our staff.
“Their staff is required to provide critical care training, and our goal is to have all our paramedic training at the top level of critical care.”
The Marion County Ambulance District has six ambulances, with two at each of its three locations: on U.S. 61 and on South Fourth Street in Hannibal and one in Palmyra.
“We have 4,500 emergency calls a year,” Nemes said. “We have 24 full-time paramedics and EMTS, (12 of each). ... We have an EMT and a paramedic on staff 24 hours a day” at each of the three locations.
The district also has 36 part-time employees.