Midwest MedAir Expanding Helicopter Service to Hastings

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

The number of emergency medical aircraft in the country has doubled in the last 15 years, and Nebraska is seeing some of that expansion now.

The Midwest MedAir flight team might be landing on a highway to help at an accident, or transferring critical care patients from one hospital to another.

"We fly all over the state of Nebraska, go to Denver quite a bit, go to Omaha, Children's [Hospital], whatever the need is," says Chief Flight Nurse Kim Wessels.

Wessels says it's not unusual for another call to come in while they're on a mission, so the crew believes that basing a second helicopter out of Hastings, in addition to their current air service in North Platte, will save lives when minutes matter.

"Response time is going to be drastically reduced because we have flown missions out of this area, but we had to come all the way from North Platte and it's a good hour flight," says pilot Michael Madura.

Madura says it will also save some fuel, even though they'll be flying to all four sides of Nebraska.

"[Leaving North Platte] we could pick up from this location and take it into Lincoln or Omaha and still have fuel, but being based here, we'll take off with a full tank of gas," he says.

Midwest says both helicopters are the only ones in Nebraska that are rated so they can fly by instruments alone. It means poor visibility that limits other flights won't hinder them.

"Other than freezing weather conditions or hail storms, things like that, we are able to fly when some of the others are not able to," says Wessels.

Hastings Fire and Rescue Chief Kent Gilbert says the extra support won't be as much of an asset in the city where hospitals are close, but will help with mutual aid calls that would otherwise mean a 40-mile ambulance drive.

"Not all patients are flown - sometimes we'll get on scene and find that the injury wasn't as bad, but again with the travel times it takes to get there by vehicle, a helicopter can save you time," says Gilbert. "Where the helicopter is vitally important is going to be not only in our outlying areas, but to the region."

"We're here for anybody that we can reach - we don't really contract with anybody, the service is here to be utilized," says Midwest Medical General Manager Jeff Shullaw.

Shullaw says their new helicopter should be ready for calls as soon as it arrives later this month.

"We are seeing declining numbers in the volunteer service, and this lets us put more resources on scene to save lives, and that's going to be an important," says Gilbert.

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