Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mercy Flight

Since January 1, 2012, Mercy Flight has posted on their Facebook/Twitter pages SIX times that their services were needed to help accident victims on the slopes, and in car accidents throughout WNY. In times of crisis, getting a victim to the hospital quickly is of utmost importance. It can mean life over death, and Mercy Flight does it best.

Mercy Flight was started in 1981 by Douglas Baker. Doug began working on an ambulance when he was 13 and being an EMS was in his blood. He established LaSalle Ambulance prior to 1981 which served the area for many years before being bought out by Rural/Metro. Doug also served as a combat medic in the military and when he return back to civilian life he began to explore the military concept of medevac, and knew it could work in WNY.

Since it’s inception in 1981, Mercy Flight has safely flown more than 19,000 patients to receive treatments (about 900 alone last year). Mercy Flight celebrated their 30th anniversary this past year, and are an asset our community cannot do without.

Today, Mercy Flight is one of only a few of the truly not-for-profit air medical operations in the country. Nowadays most as for-profit companies and are operated by hospitals.

When an accident happens, about half of all calls Mercy Flight receives are to go directly to the scene of the accident or emergency. The first responders on the scene will make the decision as to whether or not the services of Mercy Flight are needed, and they make the call. In other cases, hospitals will contact Mercy Flight with a request to fly a patient in critical condition to another hospital to receive advanced care.

What amazes me about Mercy Flight is that with their upgraded fleet of helicopters they can reach most of the service area in WNY within 15 minutes of takeoff. If they think they may be needed after an accident they can be put on “stand-by” and get there even quicker. Mercy Flight has three helicopters staffed 24/7/365 with a pilot, critical care paramedic and a critical care nurse. The three helicopters are stationed in Buffalo, Batavia and Olean. In addition to the helicopter staff, Mercy Flight has an administrative team of eight plus seven aircraft mechanics and a communications center that is manned 24/7 as well. In total, they have 13 full time pilots on rotation throughout the week at the different locations. While some of the paramedics and nurses are full time, most work part-time for the organization. They employ around 24 of each (paramedics/nurses).

During one year, it typically costs about $9 million for Mercy Flight to operate in WNY. After services are utilized they will bill the patients’ insurance carriers, and while those revenues bring in the majority of funding, they are left with about a $1 million gap to fill each year. They receive no funding from NY State and receive very limited funding totaling less than $50,000.

When speaking with Mercy Flight Director of Development & External Affairs Jeffrey Mendola, he said, “We could not do what we do without community support. We recently introduced the opportunity for people, families and organizations to sponsor a flight for a donation of $842. After the flight, we will send them a note to let them know about the flight they sponsored. We also accept on-line donations on our website and host a few fundraisers throughout the year to raise the additional funds.”

Their website is a wealth of information about the history of medevac, Mercy Flight and many great patient stories.

Mercy Flight is one of those organizations we hope we never need to use, but are thankful is there should an emergency arise. They truly are "a beacon of hope, when minutes matter."

Mercy Flight is another organization that is part of the "12 Missions in '12" campaign. Stay tuned for more details about the fundraiser.

Check out this public service announcement they put out last year called "Eyes Out" with Buffalo Bandit Mark Steenhuis.

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