A shot in the arm will soon be administered to Clay County's airport and medical transportation system.
Air Evac Lifeteam, an air ambulance service based in Missouri, will be opening a base at the Clay County Airport, possibly within the next two months.
Several county officials, including Emergency Management Director Gerri Husband and Clay County Board of Airport Commissioners President Mike Knust, attended an impromptu meeting in Washington, Ind. yesterday afternoon to get a rundown of the company's policies and services.
"We're very much a pro-rural EMS service," Nurse Sandi Pearson said. The Clay County base will be the second opened in Indiana, with a base in Washington being the first.
The company will serve anyone within a 70-mile radius of their base. By implementing helicopters, the service is generally faster than that available via ground-based ambulances. The Clay County base will have one helicopter, with backups in Washington and Effingham, Ill.
The company's strength lies in its ability to access rural areas very quickly. As an example, Pearson said that a farmer trapped under a piece of machinery in a field could receive faster care by helicopter than by ground-based ambulance.
"We have the concept of a 'golden hour' for severely injured patients," she said. "That first hour after an injury can make a lot of difference."
Tim Lowe, an Air Evac representative, said that the Washington base averages one or more flights a day, though some bases will perform up to 60 transports a month. The average is 40-50 a month.
He also said that the average turnaround time on a transport, including pick up and drop off, can take several hours.
"That might be different in Brazil, though," he said. "Brazil is only 18 minutes from Indianapolis."
It was noted that a lot of Brazil's patients would be transferred to Indianapolis.
Lowe said that despite listings for jobs on the company's Web site, www.air-evac.com, many of the jobs at the new base would be transfers.
"A lot of our Washington staff lives in the Clay County area already," he said. "We have enough people from that area to fill a whole base. What will probably happen is that they will transfer employees over from Washington and Effingham and fill in the new positions at the old bases."
The base is expected to be fully operational by the end of April. This figure could be affected by a number of variables, however, including weather.
CCBA President Mike Knust said that the deal between the company and Clay County is surprising, not to mention very beneficial.
"I couldn't believe that they were even talking with us at first," he said. "We were offering them nothing, really, and they were offering us everything in return."
Clay County will lease a plot of airport land to the company for 20 years at the price of $1.
"The best thing is," Knust continued, "this isn't costing the taxpayers anything, other than the leasing of that land."
Besides talk, the company also provided the officials with short helicopter rides around Washington.
"I'm very impressed with the whole operation," Knust said. "It's top-notch. They're very community-oriented, as we've seen here today."