Air Evac service moving to Sikeston location

Friday, April 16, 2004

Air Evac Lifeteam and St. Francis Medical Center both confirmed Thursday that the helicopter service will leave the hospital property and relocate, possibly in June, to a location in Sikeston.

The hospital's expansion plans and a shift in patient needs have made the move necessary.

Seth Myers, vice-president of operations for Air Evac in West Plains, Mo., said that Air Evac and St. Francis mutually decided that the move would benefit both entities. St. Francis moved Air Evac's base on its campus once before, and due to current expansion was planning to move it a second time, Myers said.

"We mutually decided a move off site would be best," Myers said.

Trevor Sumner, a member of St. Francis's marketing department, said that the hospital no longer finds it necessary to keep a helicopter service on its campus.

"It does not affect pickup times," Sumner said. "With the combination of Air Evac and Arch Air Medical Service, there are enough air ambulance providers that it is no longer necessary to keep one on the premises."

Patient pickup in the Cape Girardeau area is no longer a priority for either helicopter ambulance service in the area -- Air Evac and Arch Air Medical Service, based at the Cape Girardeau airport. Myers of Air Evac said that the emergency medical capabilities of the local hospitals have evolved so that they are capable of receiving and caring for critical care patients. At one time, he said, trauma, heart attack and stroke patients were flown to St. Louis from Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area.

Basing air ambulances in more rural areas closer to the people who would need transportation cuts down on response time. Myers said Air Evac is looking at Sikeston because most of its calls come from the Bootheel area.

"The reasons we're going there are geographical in nature," he said.

Waiting for a helicopter to come from Cape Girardeau to pick up a patient and then fly back only adds to the time a patient has to wait to get to the hospital.

Arch Air Medical Service is based at the airport for the same reason, said Matt Kasten, of Arch's marketing department.

"We are a community-based model," Kasten said. "We do not have any ties to any one facility. We are able to transport patients anywhere appropriate, not just to a certain hospital."

The airport is one of nine bases Arch has in Missouri and Illinois, Kasten said.

Myers said that Air Evac is within a week or two of finalizing arrangements with the hospital in Sikeston, which is centrally located in the company's 60-mile radius service area.

Once the details are finalized, Myers said Air Evac expects to set up its base there sometime in June.

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