Harrison County considers air ambulance proposal

Harrison County considers air ambulance proposal

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Ochsner Medical Center may locate one of its medical helicopters on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The director of flight care for Ochsner discussed that possibility with Harrison County supervisors at Monday's board meeting.

Right now, when an air ambulance is needed in Harrison County, that helicopter must travel from New Orleans, LA, Mobile, AL, or Hattiesburg.

The proposal from Ochsner would locate an aircraft on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Have the opportunity to transport patients on a more frequent basis and be able to intervene earlier in that patient's injury or illness," said Ian Nyfren, the Director of Flight Care with Ochsner.

Under the current system, the medical helicopters are called on from time-to-time, with the understanding they're 20 to 30 minutes away.

"If we need them, we use them. The patients that we put in the back of a helicopter are generally very, very sick or very, very injured," said Greg Doyle, the operations manager at AMR.

"A 74-year-old retired school teacher had a stroke, and she was transported. Because of the timeliness of care, because of the access to care that we were able to provide, she had a 100 percent resolve of any of her stroke symptoms and went back to her daily life," said Nyfren.

"This is the missing link in our whole system," said Harrison County Fire Chief, Pat Sullivan.

Sullivan said the biggest advantage is time.

"If we have to wait 20 minutes or 30 minutes for the helicopter, it really doesn't work. That's why it's important that we get the helicopter located locally," said Sullivan.

Cost is a factor in any decision making. A single helicopter transport is around $35,000. While some states have favorable insurance reimbursement, ours does not.

"If you look at the State of Mississippi, Mississippi insurance coverage and reimbursement is so low, that along the Gulf Coast, there's not an aircraft," Nyfren told county supervisors.

Supervisors want some more figures on what the service will cost the county. They'll discuss it further at an upcoming meeting.

Nyfren said Harrison County might consider becoming part of a multi-county cooperative, which would share the cost of the air ambulance service.

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