As a Roman for over 40 years, I am expressing my disappointment with the recent decision by Air Methods to remove their Redmond-based medical helicopter from our community. I feel that this is a step backward from the usual progression of local medical care that our community has come to know.
The value of rapid response medical evacuation in reducing mortality and morbidity of those wounded in combat was initially demonstrated in Korea and confirmed in Vietnam and subsequent conflicts. The civilian use of specially equipped helicopters for medical transport when situations required it resulted from that military experience. Advances in medical technology have emphasized the importance of “the Golden Hour” for those requiring urgent treatment of some, not all, medical emergencies. Common sense tells me that there are patients who either survived or had lessened problems as a result of immediate, rapid transportation if local capability was not available. Conversely, this would not be true for those not so fortunate due to the lack of it. It seems to me that our community has moved the former category into the latter.
As a Special Forces medical officer in Vietnam, I saw the value of medevac. As a practicing physician in Rome, it would have been comforting to have such service locally available for my patients when required. Now, as a retired “senior citizen,” it would be even more comforting to know that any part of my “Golden Hour” is not being taken up by transportation coming to me from a distant location.
The competition between our two hospitals has generally made both entities stronger and has benefited the citizens of our area. Both have excellent emergency rooms and Floyd Medical Center is a Level II Trauma Center. One would hope that competition has not and will not jeopardize their patients having access to locally available medical helicopter transportation should it be required for medical services that are not available in Rome.
I would challenge the two hospitals, their boards, as well as our county and city governments to cooperate and find a way to get this helicopter service back to Rome. Redmond Regional Medical Center reported spending significant monies to build a helipad and support facilities. Let us hope that either this capability is again used as intended or that a comparable facility can be built to benefit the citizens of Rome and our area.
J. Paul Ferguson, M.D., retired