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Medical helicopter flights expensive, often necessary

When a serious car accident happens, severe injuries are likely. Illinois is no stranger to motor vehicle accidents and has had its fair share of life-changing crashes, causing irreparable damage to vehicles, occupants and their families. Injuries can be catastrophic, potentially causing paralysis or other extreme conditions, or even fatal. When the injuries are severe and have not yet turned fatal, time is of the essence. That is why a panel of first responders recently discussed the use of medical helicopters in Pinckneyville, Illinois.

According to estimates, the medical helicopter used in Pinckneyville is worth $1.5 million. On board is a trained crew of medical technicians and flight operators that work together to transfer injured individuals from accident scenes and hospitals to medical facilities where they can receive the proper medical attention. Many people believe that medical evacuation flights are implemented more than they should, costing considerable amounts of money to the people injured and their families.

During the recent discussion panel, officials talked about the number of calls that Pinckneyville Ambulance Service has responded to so far this year, which was more than 2,200. With so many calls, it would be expected that the helicopter would be in use quite often. It has only been dispatched 15 times so far this year. Many of these incidents have been motor vehicle crashes.

At the Pinckneyville Community Hospital, more than 3,300 patients have been treated so far in 2012. Again, helicopter transfers would expect to be high but this facet of the medical helicopter has only been implemented 30 times. Some of these individuals were trauma injury patients while others were cardiac or stroke victims.

The costs of these flights, which last about 20 minutes, vary between $15,000 and $25,000 per flight with some of it being covered by health insurance in most cases. But in some cases, there is no insurance for a victim of a car crash to fall on, meaning the costs of their personal health care, even before arriving, are extremely expensive.

Source: Murphysboro American, "The Myths & Costs of Medical Helicopter Evacuation Services," John H. Croessman, Nov. 2, 2012

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