AirMedCare representatives Elizabeth Hammons and Mary Rader appeared before the Pocahontas County Commission at its May 19 meeting to offer insight into the Air Evac Lifeteam and what Rader called the Municipal Site Plan.
“It’s a very unique, county-wide plan [that] covers membership for every single resident that is within the Pocahontas County boundaries,” Rader said. “Why is it important? It is important because it covers your residents in life-and-limb-threatening illnesses.”
Rader went on to explain that an average medical flight from Pocahontas County costs between $25-and-$32,000 and the average insurance reimbursement is approximately $7-to-$10,000. Because of such costs, residents are left with an average out-of-pocket fee of $18,000. With Air Evac Lifeteam, the financial burdens of the out-of-pocket expenses are eliminated.
The Municipal Site Plan is not without its restrictions, however. Individuals must be flown out of Pocahontas County, and should the individual be uninsured, they will be billed the Medicare allowable rate for the transportation.
Memberships have been opened up for entire households at a cost of $35, while a normal membership is $65. As a member, if an individual happens to be flown by AirEvac Lifeteam, there will be no additional charge.
In past years, Hammons explained, Air Evac Lifeteam’s fixed-wing helicopter – the only West Virginia certified one of its kind – has been used 26 times during inclement weather in Pocahontas County. Additionally, 211 individuals have been flown out of the county, with 186 of those being rotor-wing flights.
“Rural Americans are twice as likely to die from a traumatic injury or illness compared to their urban counterparts due to the time it takes to reach life-saving medical care,” Hammons added. “And I will tell you very quickly that’s how we began.”
The company was founded in 1985 following the death of a businessman in the rural town of West Plains, Missouri. The man had been on the way to a meeting when he was involved in a car accident and critically injured. At the time, the air ambulances were based in larger areas, and they had to wait for the air and medical to come out to the small town, pick the man up, and take him back. The businessman died en-route. As a result, area businessmen got together and asked “What can we do to fix this for our community?” Thus, the Air Evac Lifeteam was formed.
During the Public Input/Hear Callers portion of the evening, however, Air Evac found that they were not alone in their desire to present their company’s case before the Commission.
Brian Doughty, Director of Finance, and Dr. Mike Peterson, Medical Director of HealthNet Aeromedical Services, were also in attendance.
Together, Doughty and Peterson addressed a number of points detailed in a letter to the Commission from HealthNet President and CEO Clinton V. Burley.
The first point pertained to the services provided to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital.
“Earlier this month,” Doughty said, “HealthNet Aeromedical Services was selected as the preferred air medical services provider to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, replacing Air Evac Lifeteam, due to clinical quality issues.”
Under this service, HealthNet would be the first to receive calls for patient transfers from Pocahontas Memorial Hospital.
PEIA, the WV Public Employee’s Insurance Agency, was the focus of HealthNet’s second point and Peterson took those reins.
Peterson told the commission that even though HealthNet is a non-profit, it doesn’t mean that they [HealthNet] don’t want to make a profit. However, HealthNet’s purpose for wanting a profit is not what one might expect.
“It’s what we do with those profits,” Peterson explained, “We take what we make and we put it back into the equipment that we have. For example, we have a ten-week flight academy. All of our crews are carefully selected. They go through a ten-week process.”
Additionally, HealthNet has partnered with PEIA as a participating provider. Part of this agreement, Doughty said, is that HealthNet has agreed to accept PEIA payment as full and complete payment for service rendered to public employees. What this means is that there is no bounce back payment for public employees after the fact.
“To be clear,” writes Burley, “Air Evac Lifeteam is not a participating provider with PEIA.”
The final point made by the HealthNet representatives dealt with the capabilities of their aircrafts and subsequent crew members. Unlike the single-engine aircrafts of Air Evac Lifeteam, HealthNet aircrafts responsible for responding to Pocahontas County are twin-engine helicopters. HealthNet representatives also announced that later in the week, news of a base opening in Lewisburg would be made public.
“The state law is that on any scene accident, it’s the closest aircraft, Doughty added. “It doesn’t matter who it is. It’s just the closest aircraft. With our base going into Lewisburg, we [HealthNet Aeromedical Services] will be the closest aircraft.”
HealthNet Aeromedical Services is a West Virginia-based, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that has grown to include eight operating helicopter bases since its founding in 1986. It is “cooperatively owned, supported and managed by our state’s academic medical centers –WVU Healthcare, Charleston Area Medical Center, and Cabell Huntington Hospital,” Burley outlined in his letter.
Community garden planned
The commission also heard from Family Resource Network coordinator Laura Young. She began by briefly explaining the purpose of the FRN – a “local community who cares about children and families”– and how it has been a valuable aid to the families within the community. One example of how the FRN has been instrumental in helping the low-income families of the community has been through their Harvest House Food Pantry. Many of the items received by the Pantry are obtained for free from the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway, and the FRN sees the garden project as a way to offer even more to the families it serves.
Young presented details by way of a five-year plan which included possible expansion to beehives and greenhouses. The program will serve an educational purpose and provide an opportunity for both figurative and literal growth. The garden would have oversight from FRN staff and will function on a predominantly volunteer basis.
Commissioner David McLaughlin made a motion to allow an acre of land behind the former shoe factory to be used as the garden plot under the condition that the FRN provides liability insurance. The Commission unanimously agreed.
Selection committee 911 Director
An advisory committee was formed to assist the commission in reviewing and interviewing applicants for the combined 911/Office of Emergency Services Director position. The committee consists of Janet Ghigo, Bill McLaughlin, Donald McNeel, Alvon Ryder and Joe Smith.
Following the committee appointments, the commission reviewed the applications it has received and narrowed the applicant pool from six to four. The applicants – Shawn Dunbrack, Michael O’Brien, Allen Tracy and Randy Stemple – will meet with the commission and Advisory Committee Tuesday, May 26, at 5:30 p.m.
In other action:
A motion was passed to revisit the initial tree removal discussion posed by courthouse custodian Mike Cain by amending the next commission agenda to include a discussion and/or action on the removal of six trees from the front lawn of the courthouse in the fall, due to possible hazards to members of the community. The discussion and/or action would also include replacing the removed trees.
The Commission moved to accept Tom Shipley’s resignation from the Public Service District board, effective May 25, 2015, under the condition that he remain on the board until then.
Following Shipley’s resignation, the commission appointed Mark Smith to the PSD board, effective May 26, 2015.
The Commission moved to support Region IV’s 2014-2018 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Update.
Tammie Alderman gave an update from the Pocahontas County Day Report Center.
The next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2, at 8:30 a.m.