Washington County changing operations for air ambulance service

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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BRENHAM, Texas (KBTX) - Washington County Commissioners recently voted to switch to a new air medical provider to run their helicopter, to create more availability with the helicopter’s services.

The county terminated their previous agreement with REACH Air Medical and signed a new one with Metro Aviation Inc. Washington County EMS Director Kevin Deramus said they want to have the helicopter available more often and with less out-of-service time. Last year it averaged at about 77% of availability, they expect the new company will keep that percentage higher.

“Metro Aviation has ben doing this for 40 years. They have an in-service available time of about 98% for all their 40 bases,” said Deramus.

Mother of four Larissa Jarvis knows an emergency can happen at any time.

“My dad was Life-flighted years ago from a car accident and I think that something like that is very important to have, even being a small town,” she said.

Washington County Commissioners recently approved a new agreement with Metro Aviation Inc. for a new aircraft operating agreement. It comes at a cost of $170,000 per month for the county.

Some residents question the higher costs the county is taking on. It was paying about $135,000 a year for subscription program to Air Med Care Network. Now, the county expects an annual cost of about $3 million.

“We’ve been told that between $2.9 and $3.3 million of revenue will come into the program. Of course we have no crystal ball. I didn’t come out of the Grand Canyon and know that Ukraine was going to be at war with Russia either so can things change? Absolutely,” said Deramus. “We put 90 day contract terms in all of our contracts. So if two, three years from now this is not what we think it’s going to be the county can decide to get out of it.”

Washington County Judge John Durrenberger says the county will have revenue taking over the medical billing process.

“We feel like very conservatively 30 flights a month pay for the operation... We feel like it’s a win-win not just for our taxpayers here but for the medical services all the way around. [Baylor] Scott & White needs this service. We need the service. Our constituents certainly need the service,” said Durrenberger.

For mom’s like Jarvis, it’s piece of mind.

“Anything can happen. Cut some costs somewhere or charge a little bit extra.. We live in the country and we have a lot of a lot of wildlife. Anything can happen at any point in time and I do feel safer knowing that we have that just in case something was to happen, and that’s a long drive. It’s definitely a shorter helicopter ride,” said Jarvis.

Metro Aviation takes over operations on June 27. The county’s current helicopter will be replaced with a similar style this summer.

Washington County EMS will not be doing hoist rescue operations with the new provider. Washington County is also not equipped for traumatic care at their hospital which is another reason county leaders say a medical helicopter is needed.

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