LifeSave 22 boosts emergency service options for Dodge City, western Kansas towns

Edward J. Naughton
Pratt Tribune
B. J. Tyner, Area Manager for LifeSave Transport with Air Methods, a company headquartered in Colorado, and Rick Wallace CEO of HPMC, cut a ribbon welcoming new emergency air services to Dodge City and celebrate better medical options in western Kansas.

B. J. Tyner, Area Manager for LifeSave Transport with Air Methods, a company headquartered in Colorado, and Rick Wallace, CEO of HPMC, used a pair of giant scissors to cut a grand-opening ribbon July 15 for a new Airbus medical helicopter that will be stationed at the Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City.

"We are super-excited to re-engage the partnership we have with Western Plains Medical Complex in southwest Kansas and this is the perfect machine for many years to come," Tyner said.

More than 100 emergency first responders, aircrew pilots and supporting personnel, hospital staff and members of LifeSave Transport company Air Methods and news media gathered to view the European-made Airbus helicopter which features night vision goggles for use by pilot or crew, helicopter terrain awareness system, and other warning and data systems that will be able to safely access situations in three or four different states including Kansas. 

Tyner said the aircraft, officially designated LifeSave 22, now based in Dodge testifies to an exciting new era in southwest Kansas emergency air transport boosting essential emergency medical air services to this region.

The LifeSave22 helicopter will be able to land roadside to pick up a patient suffering severe injuries and trauma from a vehicular accident, or can help rescue a patient in trouble with serious stroke symptoms in need of clot-busting medication in a hurry. This craft will even be able to access in remote areas and canyons safely.  

"We depend on this type of transport for our community, it is very important, not only for Dodge and for Ford County, but also for people in Kansas living in a 75-to-100-mile radius," Wallace said. "We want to be able to provide this kind of service and the only way we can do it is through LifeSave Transport."

After the open-house ribbon was cut, those present were invited to view up-close the sleek and advanced design features of the technologically-advanced aircraft. Air crew personnel including pilots, flight nurses, and EMS technicians were on-hand to answer questions and there were many informal discussions held in small groups near the craft, and friendly exchanges between flight crew personnel and visitors in attendance.

"This Airbus helicopter is reliable, fast, and can land safely in many types of terrain even when only limited space to land the craft is available, for instance alongside state roads where the helicopter's crew may be tasked to pick up, stabilize, and transport a single trauma patient with critical trauma-related injuries to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita for instance," said pilot Alex Marshall.

Equipment on board will be similar to that of local ground emergency response units craft such as ventilator, cardiac defibrillator, rescue breathing apparatus, suction tube, tracheal tubes, IV pumps, and emergency medicines.

When service is needed for transport to major hospital centers, for instance to Denver or Kansas City, or even to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, there are now LifeSave Transport ground ambulance crewmembers available to meet those urgent needs.

Dalton Williams and Kira Galloway are highly trained EMS technicians who provide ground ambulance services working for LifeSave Transport. Benito Sotelo, well-trained flight nurse working for LifeSave Transport, had spent three years in this kind of air transport speciality, and knows about the adrenaline that kicks in while performing his duties onboard as the Airbus medical helo can travel very fast to about 130 mph to save a life in an emergency.

"Anything that we can't do here in Dodge as to head trauma or neurological event, we can get the patient from here in Dodge to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 1 hour and 10 minutes," Sotelo said.

LifeSave and Air Methods customer service representatives set up a tent at the ribbon-cutting event and passed out cold drinks and coffee and cake to guests, but most importantly, they spoke with people who were concerned about the high costs of air medical transport and how much families might be asked to pay in the aftermath of such a service being provided to their loved one.

An information sheet available at the event outlined benefits and costs, as well as how the company has handled the problems and complaints of the past by listening to the patients themselves.

The average out-of-pocket for patients who work with Air Methods through the patient advocacy program in Kansas is $159 per patient, depending upon their insurance plan. This kind of customer service initiative takes into account that each patient has a unique financial outlook to contend with, and so Air Methods works with the patient concerned to reach a more reasonable balance owed which is largely based on their ability to pay.

Since there is still a percentage of patients with essentially no insurance to cover their transport needs in an emergency situation, and given that air medical bills do increase costs for everyone concerned, Air Methods works to still do right by the patients that need help the most. They have a toll free number which helps to answer questions - 855-896-9067.

This re-engagement with LifeSave Transport/Air Methods and High Plains Medical Complex partnering together gives southwest Kansas a welcome alliance to count on in providing emergency transport, as the needs include many square miles of coverage area which fortunately also includes service to designated critical care areas places like Kansas City; Amarillo, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Denver, Colorado. So capabilities of this aircraft extend beyond southwest Kansas when that is appropriate, as operations dictate, and even in coordination with other craft including fixed wing medical aircraft stationed in other parts of Kansas.

The helicopter is an Airbus craft built in Europe and has met demanding high performance standards by means of rigorous testing and development. This AS350/H125 is advanced in design and aerodynamically efficient helicopter which can reach speeds up to 130 mph according to one of the crewmembers on hand for the static demonstration in Dodge City.