Columbia Air Ambulance Has Competition

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MOBERLY - Air Evac Lifeteam is the first of its kind to fly to the rescue in Randolph County. Air Evac Lifeteam is a commercial air ambulance that has brought 15 new jobs to the area. Those include four flight nurses, four pilots, four paramedics, one mechanic, one program director and one sales representative. Air Evac Lifeteam originated in West Plains, Mo and has 115 bases across the United States. It's opening five additional bases in 2014. Of the five new bases, one is located behind the Randolph County Ambulance District. On Friday, March 14 the Air Evac Lifeteam helicopter landed at 8:53 a.m. for the first time with its first request at 12:30 p.m.

Angela Emily is a flight nurse for Air Evac Lifeteam and part of the Air Evac stripe team. The stripe team travels to different Lifeteam bases and trains new staff for six months. Currently Emily is training at Air Evac's new base in Moberly.

"It's the best job in the world. I can't imagine doing anything that I love more," Emily said.

Emily said an air ambulance could do more things than a ground ambulance. For example, ground ambulances typically have an EMT basic and a paramedic, but air ambulances have a paramedic and a flight nurse.

"Also we can just get there faster, it's a much quicker time," Emily added.

Moberly's Air Evac Lifeteam Program Director Rhonda Herron said the new base could save more lives in the area.

"I live in Paris, Mo and I call it no man's land and it's too far from other bases. Staff for Life is 25 minutes from Paris. With an air ambulance in Moberly now that flight time is 10 minutes," Herron said.

Staff for Life is the main air ambulance in Columbia, Mo serving University Hospital. Staff for Life Regional Business Development Manager, Christopher Brennan, said its air ambulance is better equipped than Air Evac Lifeteam.

"This air craft carries blood on board and two units of O-negative blood. We're the only service in the state that carries O-negative blood," Brennan said. "We have an ultra sound on board to help the med crews, a blood machine that can give blood value, which helps the crews determine the state of shock the patient is in."

Brennan said there are more than 400 air ambulances in 48 states with approximately 25 in Missouri with seven different companies. The Staff for Life and Air Evac Lifeteam companies typically are the only ones serving Boone County and the surrounding mid-Missouri counties. However, Brennan added, "wherever they are needed they will fly."

An average air ambulance flight will cost anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000. Air Evac Lifeteam offers a membership and was also the first air ambulance service in the country to offer a membership program. Members pay an annual fee of $65 per household and if flown by Lifeteam for medical emergencies, they don't have to pay. If you belong to a Lifeteam membership, you are covered everywhere the company services, which includes more than 200 bases in 28 states.

Staff for Life recently switched to an insurance company for patients, Lifeshield Alliance. This nationwide insurance covers any member everywhere in the United States. Specifically, the insurance policy is a fixed indemnity payment of $10,000 with an annual membership for a family of $59.95.

Brennan argues there are too many air ambulances in the area, while Emily said it's better to have more services provided.

"You can't fly more than 30 minutes without flying into another air ambulance," Brennan said.

"If Staff for Life is busy with something then we can help out in those gaps, and if we're busy then Staff for Life can fill in, so it's ultimately what is best for our patients," Emily said.

"The interest of the patient is what's the big picture here.You don't want to send a helicopter that's 40 minutes away to pick up a patient, unless that helicopter is better equipped like Staff for Life is," Brennan said. 

Brennan said Staff for Life can carry more weight and go faster because it has four rotor blades as opposed to two like Air Evac. However, Emily, Herron and Brennan all agreed, "at the end of the day it's what's best for the patient."

Since, Friday, March 14, Moberly's Air Evac Lifeteam has had 14 patient flights.

The Moberly Air Evac Lifeteam base is still under construction, but two helipads have been poured in place with concrete, the staff building is fully functional and the hanger is completed. Right now, the medical helicopter is using a temporary helipad until the others are dry.