New Freightliner Ambulance Will Support HGH Ground Transport

A new freightliner ambulance will arrive this November—just in time to replace the hospital's first model which is nearing the end of its life.

More than five years ago, that first model paved the way for Humboldt General Hospital to establish a critical care ground transport program in Winnemucca.

Before that time, if a patient was transported to a larger hospital in Reno, the trip was always made by helicopter at a $21,000 to $23,000 cost.

With HGH's new program, however, transporting patients out of Winnemucca got a lot less expensive—and a lot faster.

HGH EMS Rescue Chief Pat Songer said a helicopter flight to Reno can take 3.5 hours from the time a helicopter is called in to the time patients are delivered to a Reno hospital.

In contrast, ground transport takes no more than 2 hours, 20 minutes, from the door of Humboldt General Hospital to the door of a Reno hospital.

"And the cost savings are even greater," said Songer. In contrast to helicopter flight, ground transport from Winnemucca costs between $6,000 and $8,000.

Now, as the hospital transitions to its next generation of ambulances, HGH officials said it's a good time to reflect on what the program has meant for Humboldt County.

"For us, it was a question of what was best for our community," said Jim Parrish, CEO/Administrator of Humboldt General Hospital. "The majority of our patients do not fall within extremely critical timeframes, so ground transport seemed a fair solution to the cost and time dilemma that we encounter in trying to get patients where they need to go."

Parrish said patients who are critical, or who need immediate surgery at a larger hospital, still go by helicopter, "but for the rest, this presented a great option for us."

Songer said the new ground transporter will be one foot longer than the original model and will have enough room to include two stretchers.

The Chief said that ability to transport two patients at a time is invaluable in this rural setting, especially in the case of multiple accident victims.

The new freightliner ambulance will cost about $370,000. Songer said it should serve the program well for about five years. The hospital's second freightliner will be the next replacement on the list.

Songer said the ambulances are almost like small emergency rooms on wheels. "We have full ventilator capabilities," he said. "We can run IVs, administer meds and other procedures as needed."

Songer said the ambulances also have plenty of room for family members, with full seatbelt capacity, as well as car seats for the younger set. The units are even equipped with big screen TVs to ensure the most comfortable journey possible for everyone involved.

Since beginning the ground transport program in early December 2007, Songer said his crews have completed more than nearly 1,300 transports. In 2013 alone, crews transported 346 patients; year to date, 225 patients have been transported.

Parrish said the program has been a welcome addition to Humboldt County's emergency medical services system.

"There is such a need for this type of service in Winnemucca," said Parrish. "With our distance from trauma centers and our growing population, this kind of transport has become an important component of patient care."

He added, "We are looking forward to continuing this successful ground transport program for the benefit of our residents; they deserve this level of service."

For more information on Humboldt General Hospital's critical care ground transport program, please call HGH EMS Rescue Chief Pat Songer at (775) 623-5222, ext. 1360, or HGH CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish at (775) 623-6222, ext. 1123.