'Flying hospitals' for only $65
Graham County residents no longer face years of paying tens of thousands of dollars per flight when medical emergencies necessitate airlifts to hospitals.
Graham County has entered into a partnership with AirMed Care Network, which provides medical airlift insurance plans for just $65 a year, per family.
“They will bill your insurance, third-party insurance, and if your insurance doesn’t pay it all, they will pick up the difference,” Graham County Manager Becky Garland told county commissioners during Tuesday’s board meeting. “You’re paying $65, and a helicopter ride is about $20,000 to $25,000, so it is something that I think every household in this county needs to sign up for.”
AirMed Care Network representative Sarah Gordon is planning a community barbecue to introduce the program to Graham County residents. You can also sign up online at airmedcarenetwork.com
“Unfortunately, because we live in such a rural, secluded area and we have a critical area, more than likely they are going to fly us,” Garland said. “I plan to sign up myself, my mom and dad, my son and my daughter and her family.”
Collectively, the county could save millions of dollars. Last year, 106 patients were flown out of Graham County. This year, 49 locals have been airlifted to hospitals.
“I look forward to it,” said Graham County Emergency Management Director Larry Hembree. “It covers the whole family. If you have parents you move into your home, or adult children, they are covered.”
And there’s more good news. LIFE FORCE Air Medical Service, a medical airlift associated with Ehrlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, will establish a base at the Andrews Airport on Aug. 15.
“We will be stationed out of Murphy/Andrews airport,” remarked LIFE FORCE Business Development Director Jim Fox. “That puts us about 10 miles from here, so we’re pretty excited about launching our sixth base.”
The closest medical airlift base is currently in Sieverville, which is about a 12-minute flight.
Close proximity isn’t the only plus.
“We’ll definitely be the closest aircraft to this area,” Fox said. “And it will be staffed with a nurse and a paramedic. We’ll be carrying liquid plasma and O-negative blood. We’re basically bringing a hospital with us wherever we go. We can do lab work on board. We even carry CroFab for snake bites.”
LIFE FORCE’s ‘flying hospital’ is an EC-135.
“It’s an IFR (Instrument Flight Rated) helicopter, basically you can fly in a little tougher weather than other helicopters can. It’s definitely going to be an asset to the community,” said Shane Noe, LIFE FORCE’s base manager in Blue Ridge.
That’s music to Hembree’s ears. “There are times when the weather is bad and we can’t fly so our ambulances go all the way to the hospital.”
Obviously, a 20-minute flight is preferable to a 1:15 drive, especially in a trauma situation.
“I’m from Hiawasee, Georgia, so I’m used to being in a rural area and running all over the county to take care of patients. To give them the best chance for a great outcome, we want to get them to a facility quickly to take care of their needs,” said Greg Taylor, who will manage the Andrews base. “I come from an EMS background and this will give the local EMS another tool to care for the citizens of Robbinsville and Graham County.”
LIFE FORCE is affiliated with Ehrlanger Health System in Chattanooga, but LIFE FORCE is welcome at other hospitals.
“We want to get the patient to the facility that meets their needs, whether that may be Mission in Asheville, Chattanooga, Atlanta,” Taylor said. “We want to get the patient where they need to be taken care of.”
And yes, LIFE FORCE will recognize your $65