Humboldt General Welcomes Larger, More Capable Helicopter

Humboldt General Hospital’s air ambulance just got bigger and better—literally.

Friday, March 24, helicopter owner MedX AirOne switched out the smaller bird stationed at the 118 E. Haskell Street facility for a larger version that will allow swifter flights to out-of-area medical centers and more room inside for patients, their family members, and attending medical personnel.

According to Joel Hochhalter, the president and managing member of MedX AirOne, the smaller helicopter will remain in Winnemucca as a backup for the company’s service area, which now covers northern Nevada from Elko to Lovelock.

Hochhalter said being able to put a helicopter in Winnemucca has been very rewarding in terms of patient care.

“Every citizen deserves access to quality medical care and transport in the safest, most appropriate manner,” said Hochhalter.

“We always want to put the patient first, and as we do, we know that will sustain us in the coming years as we provide this community service.”

MedX AirOne, LLC, initially partnered with Humboldt General Hospital in fall 2015 to launch the air medical transport program at the local facility.

HGH AirOne is now permanently stationed at HGH where it provides life-saving air medical transport to critically injured or ill patients.

As part of the deal, MedX AirOne provides the helicopter, pilots and all maintenance. HGH's job is to provide the program's flight nurses and medics, although MedX reimburses HGH for the crew's wages.

All housing and other costs associated with the program are also covered by MedX AirOne.

Additionally, Hochhalter has struck deals with officials in Humboldt, Elko, Eureka, Lander and Pershing counties to cover every resident living within the five counties. Hochhalter has also achieved a reciprocity agreement with American Medflight, which primarily flies fixed wing aircraft.

“That means if you’re flown anywhere between the Nevada/Utah border and the western edge of Pershing County, you will not incur any out-of-pocket costs if you are flown by an aircraft owned by MedX AirOne or American Medflight,” said Hochhalter.

Hochhalter said MedX AirOne works with each patient's medical insurance provider to secure payment for its air medical services, and will waive any remaining balance, including co-pays or deductibles.

He added, “If you are uninsured and a program member, there is no charge.”

While Hochhalter acknowledged that helicopter transport is an incredibly expensive service, he said its life-saving benefits outweigh any possible non-insurance compensation.

“Everybody deserves the same level of care. If you don't have health insurance and you need a higher level of care, you're covered,” he said.

For local EMS providers, HGH AirOne has served to complete the circle of pre-hospital care in Humboldt County.

HGH EMS Rescue Interim Chief Sean Burke said, “We have worked with some very competent air ambulance companies over the years, but we just haven't been able to reconcile the time it takes to bring a helicopter from Reno, load a patient and make that turnaround.”

Burke said it routinely takes between 2.5 and 3 hours to exit a critically injured or ill patient from Winnemucca to Washoe County.

“Now,” he said, “it's taking 45 minutes, and when you're dealing with heart or stroke or accident victims, those saved minutes really do save lives.”