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Trauma; when a medical emergency strikes

When a medical emergency strikes, how do emergency personnel determine which medical facility a patient needs?

Do emergency personnel transport a patient to the medical facility a patient requests? The patient’s condition determines which medical facility emergency personnel choose.
“We have to go to the closest, most appropriate medical facility,” Hancock County Emergency Services Director Damian Rice said. “It is based on patient condition.”

For example if a person gets sick with a virus late at night and starts to vomit and calls 911 for an ambulance, the medical technicians on scene determine if the patient’s condition presents a life-threatening situation prior to transport. If emergency personnel determine the situation presents an immediate threat to life, the crew transports the patient to the nearest medical facility equipped to treat the person. If non-life-threatening, emergency personnel ask which medical facility the patient prefers.

Locally it means a choice between Owensboro Health, Perry County Memorial Hospital, Breckinridge Memorial Hospital or Ohio County Hospital.

Rice said Federal and insurance guidelines dictate emergency personnel transport patients to the closest, most appropriate medical facility. When a medical emergency strikes, minutes mean the difference between life and death; bypassing a hospital capable of treating the patient puts the person’s life at risk.
“We cannot just drive by a hospital, Rice said.

In an extreme emergency where a person suffers trauma beyond the treatment capabilities of Perry County Memorial, Breckinridge Memorial, Ohio County Hospital or Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, emergency personnel call for air ambulance transport. The same rules apply to the crew of an air ambulance.

“We transport patients to the closest available hospital that is best able to treat their injury or illness,” a spokesperson for Air Evac Lifeteam said. “That may be a level one or two trauma center, a stroke center or cardiac center.”

What if a person suffers a severe heart attack, and requests to go to his or her doctor at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Ind, or to their doctor at a hospital in Louisville? Will the air ambulance crew take them there?  Yes, if that hospital is the closest, and the most appropriate medical facility.

“If patients have a physician located at a particular hospital, they certainly are able to ask to be transported to that facility, but there is no guarantee Air Evac will be able to accommodate that request,” the Air Evac spokesperson said. “If a person needs to be flown, it is very likely he or she needs to get definitive care quickly and safely.”

Regarding air ambulance flights, the national average cost for such flights total $40,000 according to various reports. While most insurance policies cover emergency flights by air ambulance, each insurance company possesses its own cost schedule and procedures regarding coverage of these flights. A person needs to check with his or her insurance company regarding air ambulance coverage.

Though most insurance companies cover air ambulance services, the company may not cover the entire nationwide average of $40,000. Depending upon the company, $10,000 of the flight may qualify for insurance coverage, or it could be $35,000 of the cost. What the insurance company does not cover, the insured must pay.

Across the country, several different air ambulance services exist, and offer memberships to people. In this area, Air Evac Lifeteam offers various membership options. Air Evac is a participating member of AirMedCare Network, and offers air ambulance services from 320 bases across the nation. Membership with such organizations covers the cost of the flight.

“Whatever a member’s insurance pays is considered payment in full,” the Air Evac spokesperson said.
Though Air Evac, through AirMedCare Network, does operate in the 48 contiguous states, it does not mean a person is covered everywhere in the United States. In some states only one base exists.





If a person requires air ambulance service while in this state, he or she needs to be in range of the base. In addition, in states with numerous bases, emergency personnel must request Air Evac Lifeteam. The policy does not cover a different air ambulance provider.

Say a person has a wreck in a covered state, and Air Evac is the air ambulance provider. When that person is released from the hospital, how does he or she get home? Air Evac offers an addition to the basic policy called “Fly-U-Home.” This policy addition covers flying the patient back home.

By Ralph Dickerson


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