Medevac Choppers Being Dispatched More Frequently in NJ
Medevac helicopters are responding more frequently to crash victims in New Jersey thanks to an increase in availability.
"In the last several decades there were two helicopters available and in the last decade, the last 10 years, there are now another nine helicopters available for a total of 11 in the state. There's just more access to helicopters now," said John Visokay, chief flight nurse and air medical coordinator for the Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC).
MONOC only has one medevac chopper in its program and is among the most dispatched, based on figures from the first six months of 2015.
"We've had 179 flights and that's an average of 30 flights a month," Visokay said. "We're the second busiest aircraft in the state behind Medevac 5." Medevac 5 typically covers parts of South Jersey.
Those 179 flights include a combination of scene flights and hospital-to-hospital transports. Visokay said of the 179 flights, 90 were scene flights and 89 were hospital-to-hospital transfers.
Determining whether a medevac chopper is needed is based on trauma triage guidelines for both pediatric and adult patients. These include physiological signs, such as vital signs, the anatomy, such as the type of wounds and the areas that people have been injured, as well as the mechanism of injury.
Once emergency responders determine whether one or all three criteria are met, they notify the local police department. The police department then contacts REMCS, the Regional Emergency Medical Communication System, which decides which helicopter is the closest and most appropriate, and dispatches an air medical unit to the scene to get the patient to the hospital as quick as possible.
The air medical unit consists of a pilot, a paramedic and a nurse. Most flights to a trauma center are within 15 minutes.
As far as who is responsible for paying for the cost of a medevac transport, Visokay said it depends on the situation.
"In the circumstances of either a scene request, where a patient would be taken from a landing zone and taken to an appropriate facility, a trauma center or a burn center, or if there was an inter-facility, where a patient was taken from one hospital to another hospital for a higher level of care or an intervention that was unavailable at the hospital they were being sent from, those are covered by insurances," Visokay said. "If the patient is a Medicare patient, well then Medicare would be billed, and if they have another form of insurance, insurance would be billed."
He said in most cases inter-facility transfer are typically dictated by the patient's physician.