To the editor:
With an admiration and passion for flight, I have served in the Illinois Army National Guard, for the Department of Defense in Chicago and as an emergency medical services (EMS) helicopter pilot. Through this experience, I have gained a real understanding of the importance of aircraft and have learned that air transportation can be especially crucial during emergency situations.
Unfortunately, I have seen and experienced my fair share of accidents and tragic events during my tenure as an EMS helicopter pilot—gun shots, automobile crashes, ATV accidents and other severe medical emergencies to name a few. In every instance where an air ambulance was called, on-the-ground emergency responders deemed them critically necessary. Typically, these patients were in such a critical state that they required immediate specialized care, often at an advanced hospital, and could not risk traveling far distances and the potential for traffic delays.
It may seem that instances involving the use of air ambulances are rare, but that is not the case. As more and more hospitals close particularly in rural locales, these services are more common and important than ever before. In fact, more than 3,000 air ambulances were deployed during emergency situations in Illinois during the past year.
As Illinois residents, we need assurance that in the aftermath of any emergency there will be a clear, quick and direct path to a Level I or Level II Trauma Center and that those already hospitalized can be safely transferred between healthcare facilities depending on the level of care required. Air ambulances provide that peace of mind when every second counts.
While it’s clear there is a critical need, the first responders providing these services are currently operating in a vulnerable state. But Washington lawmakers can prevent bases from being put out of business. I urge those representing Illinois to support air medical providers in any federal legislation pertaining to the issue of surprise billing.
Vice President – Illinois Association of Air and Critical Care Transport (IAACCT)