Calif. fire chief makes case for air ambulance

He says adding a helicopter to a fire station would save lives and decrease pre-hospital mortality and morbidity rates


By Brian Rokos
The Press Enterprise

HEMET, Calif. — Critically injured people in Hemet would be more likely to survive if the City Council approves a contract today that would place a helicopter ambulance at a city fire station, Fire Chief Matt Shobert said.

He estimated in a staff report that 5 percent of medical responses require the victim to be taken to the trauma unit at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley or the burn unit at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

"The development of a helicopter base station in Hemet would save lives and decrease pre-hospital mortality and morbidity rates," Shobert wrote.

About 10 months ago, Mercy Air relocated its Banning helicopter to the Coachella Valleycommunity of Thermal, north of the Salton Sea. That changed the response time of the helicopter from about 20 minutes to 35 minutes, Shobert said in an interview Monday.

"It was just too far away to use," he said.

The two-year contract being considered today with Colorado-based Air Methods, the parent company of Mercy Air, would place the helicopter at Station 4 at 1035 S. Cawston Ave., near Hemet-Ryan Airport. Mercy Air would pay the city $45,000 each year.

"With our decreasing budgets, we need to re-invent ourselves, much like the auto industry," Shobert said. "I feel that these types of partnerships are essential to maintaining the services our community needs and deserves."

Mercy Air would base a pilot, nurse and paramedic at the station, day and night.

Shobert also said he hopes the paramedic will provide training to his firefighters.

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