Frontier Former Editor

February 17, 2008

Hospital medevac and airspace denial – who’da thunk it?

One of the hospitals in my general area of residence has just decided that it should be the arbiter of airspace in my region.

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Thanks to the good folks at Mountain States Health Alliance (motto: ‘The only good competing emergency medical helicopter service is a non-flying one’) has decided that only one private emergency medical helicopter – the service it contracts with – is more than sufficient to provide air medevac services for a remote mountain area whose road access to a major trauma center is more than an hour. Read more here . . .

The Wise County Board of Supervisors could decide soon whether to approve a resolution that would allow Wellmont Health System to operate a medical flight service in the area.

Mountain States Health Alliance, Wellmont’s nearest competitor, is opposed to the plan.

The Code of Virginia requires local governmental approval for any emergency medical services organization operating in a locality.

Wellmont officials want to use a Wellmont medevac helicopter from Northeast Tennessee to transport Southwest Virginia patients, often to its facilities in Tennessee.

Ron Prewitt, senior vice president of business development for Wellmont, told supervisors during a Thursday work session that Wellmont One – based in Greene County, Tenn. – would be able to take patients in severe medical need or those suffering from serious trauma to various Wellmont hospitals in the region. It would be a fast transport from the Wellmont primary-care hospitals in Lee County, Norton and Wise County in Virginia to facilities in Kingsport or Bristol.

Mountain States Health Alliance officials cried foul and asked the supervisors to deny Wellmont’s resolution request.

MSHA representatives and workers with the company’s Wings Air Rescue, based just outside of Wise County in Jenkins, Ky., said they do just fine providing medevac service in the county.

MSHA has Norton Community Hospital and Dickenson Community Hospital in its alliance.

While the relationship between Mountain States Health Alliance and its longtime hospital/health care rival Wellmont Health Systems can be likened to two vampires fighting over a used Band-Aid, it still strikes me as odd that the owner of one hospital in our immediate community has decided that it deserves air superiority over the owner of two hospitals in the same immediate area.

 I think I see a mobile radar and several surface-to-air missile transporters on the highway nearby . . .

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