Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Editorials

Which air ambulance service should Highlands County license?


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Highlands County commissioners will make a difficult decision on which air ambulance service will serve the county in the future. It's complex because they have to choose between Aeromed, which has served the county since 1994, and Rocky Mountain Holdings.

Aeromed, which is owned by Tampa General Hospital, owns Aeromed and staffs the medical personnel. They contract the helicopter and pilot through another company, Rocky Mountain Holdings out of Colorado. The license to transport injured victims out of Highlands County to trauma centers in the region is held by both Aeromed and Rocky Mountain Holdings. But Aeromed is dumping Rocky Mountain Holdings and getting a new helicopter and pilot for future flights. At the same time, Rocky Mountain Holdings is now bidding on the license and will get it own medical crew. So that makes two air ambulance services are vying to serve Highlands County.

Everyone agrees that two services are not needed in Highlands County. There just isn't enough need for it to work for anyone. So whose license application will be approved by commissioners? Good question.

Highlands County EMS director Harvey Craven is endorsing Rocky Mountain Holdings, because they turned in their paperwork first. We respect Craven but who cares whose paperwork is turned in first on such matters? The question is who will do the best job.

We don't question whether Rocky Mountain Holdings can put together a quality team of highly trained paramedics and nurses to respond to any emergency. They already do in other counties. Aeromed already does this out of the Sebring airport and Rocky Mountain could do the same. We just wonder, however, why the county wouldn't keep the service that's been here for nearly 20 years without any problems?

There isn't a cost factor for the county. The county doesn't pay an air ambulance to service this area. Those fees are collected from patients. It costs big money to be hauled by helicopter to a trauma center. One thing to consider, though, is that Aeromed is non-profit and Rocky Mountain is not. Cost to patients could be a factor, we suppose. And certainly if there are problems with one over the other, that should be a huge factor, but no one is claiming that.

If critics try to say that Tampa General's Aeromed has an unfair advantage and funnels patients there, well, that's just not true. Aeromed has to take injured patients to the nearest trauma center that specializes in whatever injuries need treated. That could be Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland or other hospitals. So there's no unfair funneling of patients anywhere.

We believe either company could provide quality air ambulance service in Highlands County. A decision like this shouldn't be made only on a race to complete paperwork basis, we believe. If there are other factors to consider, let's hear them.

Aeromed has been serving this area for a long time and we've never heard of any issue with its service. So commissioners will have to decide whether to stay with the Florida company they've been dealing with for decades or take on a new company from out of state. As long as the decision is made fairly and without prejudice, the public will be well served.

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