HealthNet Celebrates 20 Years of Lifesaving Service

HealthNet Aeromedical Services, the first statewide hospital-based air medical service in the United States, is marking its 20th anniversary with a series of special events at each of its four West Virginia bases. Each event will include presentations by flight team members, hospital administrators and former patients ? who have seen first hand the difference HealthNet makes to the critically ill and injured.

The event at the HealthNet III base took place Friday, July 21 on the helipad at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

Seventeen-year-old Clark Menshouse, of Ashland, KY, who was flown to Cabell Huntington Hospital's Trauma Center and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit after a very serious automobile accident, joined the HealthNet crew for the celebration.

HealthNet started in 1986 as a cooperative endeavor between West Virginia University Hospitals (WVUH) in Morgantown, W.Va., and Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) in Charleston, W.Va., to ensure expedient medical transport in the mountainous areas of West Virginia. The service grew in 1987 to include a base at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va. In 2005, a base was added in Bluefield, W.Va. Since its inception, HealthNet has completed more than 45,000 flights serving approximately 2,700 patients yearly from West Virginia and significant portions of Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states. A fifth base, to be located in Portsmouth, Ohio, will be operational this fall.

When the HealthNet III helicopter first became operational, it was projected that it would transport 400 patients the first year and gradually grow to transporting a maximum of 500 patients annually in subsequent years. Last year, the aircraft and crew safely transported 904 patients.

The average round trip mileage for a flight with the Huntington aircraft is 110 miles. In a twelve-month time period, the aircraft flies nearly 100,000 miles. This is the equivalent of circling the equator four times each year!

The Huntington aircraft is a jet-powered Eurocopter AS-350B2 A-Star made in France.

The average cruise speed of the aircraft is nearly 150 miles per hour. To illustrate the benefit of the helicopter's speed, a drive from Cabell Huntington Hospital to Gallipolis, Ohio, would take nearly an hour. The HealthNet helicopter flies to that city in less than twenty minutes. A drive to Logan, West Virginia, would take nearly two hours, but it is only twenty-one minutes by air.

On average, 35 percent of HealthNet's total flights are responses directly to the scene of an accident, and 65 percent of our flights take us to small community hospitals to transport patients requiring a higher level of care.

Flight nurses and flight paramedics must have a minimum of three years of experience in their specialty to be considered for a position with HealthNet. Even with that level of experience, the orientation program for new crewmembers exceeds 200 hours.

We have several crewmembers who have been with the flight program since its inception twenty years ago. Some are approaching 2,000 completed patient flights. This is extremely rare in the air medical industry.

HealthNet Aeromedical Services is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. This reflects the attention to detail, safety and quality practiced by the flight team and the administrators. Nationally, less than 40 percent of air medical organizations achieve this status.

  • Last updated: 03/09/2011
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