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Air transport service saves lives

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Air transport service saves lives

Manteca District Ambulance director and president of Manteca Rotary and Mark Cacioppo of PHI Air Medical service look over the emergency display showing an emergency helicopter with the Tuolumne di...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 12, 2010 2:39 a.m.
Mark Cacioppo, spokesman for PHI Air Medical, the largest emergency medical air transport service in the country, told Manteca Rotarians Thursday how they could reserve low cost helicopter use for their families.

Not only does Air Medical work with the Manteca District Ambulance Service and other emergency firms in the region, but they are on call with round-the-clock crews nationwide with helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.

Joining Cacioppo at the noon Rotary meeting at Isadore’s Restaurant was Dawn Traylor a flight nurse and currently manager of business development for the firm at its Dallas, TX offices.

The familiar yellow PHI helicopter is often seen doing gratis runs at events such as the Every 15 Minutes held at one of Manteca’s high school football fields for students near the end of the year –warning them of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Those helicopters are equipped with (IFR) instrument flight equipment along with night vision goggles similar to those used by the military pilots.

Founded in 1949 the medical air service also flies out work crews of up to 25 men out to sea where they go to work on oil platforms owned by Shell, Chevron and BP oil companies.

Cacioppo is offering a PHI Cares program at $40 per group member or $50 per individual with insurance that allows for any family member to be transported by air ambulance from anywhere in the nation during a given year.

He said that PHI often flies valley residents with medical emergencies to hospitals at U.C. Davis, Stanford and San Francisco hospitals when the potential loss of life and limb hang in the balance.

Traveling as far as 600 miles with their twin engine fixed wing aircraft the flight crews take sick and injured patients as far as the UCLA Medical in Los Angeles and into Mexico.  The usual 911 response is only seven minutes with the normal helicopter flight ranging 90 to 100 miles.

The PHI spokesman told of a heart attack call they responded to in Tuolumne County.  The ground ambulance had driven the victim down from the high country to a loading zone where the helicopter was waiting to transport him to Doctors Medical Center.

It was just 50 minutes from the time they picked him up to their arrival at the hospital, he said.

He stressed the importance of the air ambulance service and its “critical care transfers” when the call involves the loss of a limb such as a hand.  Victims need to go to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in micro surgery to reattach the limb.

With their safety record reportedly high, the firm pays attention to pilot intuition.  When a pilot doesn’t feel right about an assignment, the firm brings in another pilot to take the aircraft out.  Shell Oil looks closely at your safety record, and if they don’t like what they see they will contract with another carrier, Cacioppo said.

He added that his firm is Sikorski Helicopter’s biggest customer with 15 bases for their emergency service located in Texas alone.

PHI provides a full transfer service to a hospital in the event a patient is in need of specialized medical attention.  The firm actually locates the specialized hospital, the medical specialist and arranges the transport, he said.

For more information on PHI go to www.PHICARES.COM.    
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