Friday, April 17, 2015

A Response to Christine Negroni

Federal Investigators Find Oversight Lacking in Air Ambulances

Christine, you may or may not remember this, but you and I spoke on the telephone several years back. I absolutely support efforts to increase safety in the Helicopter Air Ambulance industry. Indeed I too blog about HEMS/HAA safety, and I volunteer my time to travel and teach crews about Air Medical Resource Management - most recently at Memorial Hermann LifeFlight. I think some of the comments you have made in your post are irresponsible. You seem to have joined Dr. Bledsoe's campaign to shut down HEMS as we know it - but I doubt you have ever worked a shift with a HEMS /HAA flight team. Is there room for improvement? Sure. Are we perfect? No. But our safety record has improved, and we are working in the right direction. The numbers don't lie.

You wrote in your post that " ...Air Methods operated two Eurocopter EC-130 ambulances without safety equipment required by federal regulation. Air Methods air ambulances repeatedly flew over water in the Gulf Coast communities of the Florida panhandle without flotation devices or flotation gear for the people on board the aircraft."  

Not so fast... I am allowed to operate over water without floats and coats as long as I am at an altitude that allows me to reach shore in the event of engine failure. And by the way the likelihood of an engine failure is so small that the Helicopter Association International is considering a push to allow single engine helicopters to fly in the clouds under IFR.

Christine, pilot's fly helicopters (not companies), and occasionally they operate them counter to company rules. Using your logic, a German airline recently flew a jet into a mountain. We know that's not true, and we focus on the pilot in question, not the airline. The company in question here is being fined for acts performed by the pilots it employs(ed). Pilots who were trained not to do these acts, pilots with thousands of hours of experience. Pilots who promised to follow the rules - and did not. 

The most-used tactic to discredit HEMS is to say that many of the patients we fly don't need to be flown. But consider this - my crew brought a woman back from dead recently - several times. The speed of our transport and the skill of our team saved a life. Period. Every time she got shocked she jumped on the cot next to me. If we hadn't flown her she would have died. And this saving of lives happens all the time. And crews know it. HEMS exists because of the state of health-care in America. HEMS prevents our health care system from collapsing. HEMS companies operate in several different models to work with hospitals and get ill and injured patients to the care they need.

Ask yourself, if a doctor walked up to you and told you that your loved-one needed to be moved from a rural hospital to a tertiary-care facility in a big city, would you say no? Would you? If it was your child? A DOCTOR calls for every single inter-hospital transport in America. And another one accepts the patient. 

I mean you no  offense when I write this, but unlike you I actually am an industry expert - and I am proud of my industry and my company. I understand your desire for page-views and readers. I share it. But please remember...

Words matter.

PS If you would like to learn more about what we do and how we do it, let me know. I can probably work something out. You might see things differently after spending a day in the life...

Dan Foulds

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