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Thread: Medical helicopters may be leaving interior Alaska

  1. #1
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Medical helicopters may be leaving interior Alaska

    The Army medical helicopter system operating out of Fort Wainwright is a vital component of remote medevac services in Alaska. The news today is that the Army is planning on discontinuing this service effective July 1, 2008. The given reason is that the resources are needed in Iraq.

    Without the MAST program, if you need emergency medical attention in the Interior region of Alaska, you will no longer have a public service available to come save you. It sounds like the Army has already made the decision on this and now it is up to the state to try and fill in the gaps. If you value having this service available, now would be a good time to let the Governor know. Maybe they can work out something with the Army or private industry to keep a helicopter medevac option available.

    http://newsminer.com/news/2008/feb/0...e-saving-mast/

    Also, note that our understaffed remote AST police services are getting national media attention at the same time. If you go out in the woods, you are truly on your own it seems. Even with a Sat Phone... there will be no one left to call (except your buddies). Plan accordingly.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,329047,00.html
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  2. #2
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    .....Without the MAST program, if you need emergency medical attention in the Interior region of Alaska, you will no longer have a public service available to come save you. It sounds like the Army has already made the decision on this and now it is up to the state to try and fill in the gaps. If you value having this service available, now would be a good time to let the Governor know. Maybe they can work out something with the Army or private industry to keep a helicopter medevac option available.....
    When I got shot I was rescued by a private industry medivac chopper.........probably the same one that went down recently near Whittier.

    It wasn't cheap. It was a $12,000 flight. If I didn't have medical insurance, I would have been up a certain creek without propulsion.

    A few years later my former supervisor went off a bridge on a snowmobile and broke his back. He was taken to a nearby cabin of a friend, and that friend's son was in the National Guard. He made a radio-phone call to the Armory on Ft. Rich who then contacted a Pavehawk that was already in the air. They picked him up and delivered him to Providence.

    No charge.

    Now that's really neat, but I'll bet my medical insurance company would have wished I'd have gotten in that Pavehawk, too...........

  3. #3
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    This is very bad news indeed. I have talked with these guys a few times. We just had them come up to Skiland with the Blackhawk this October. As the Ski Patrol we have never had to use them but we are prepared to do so if needed. We actually had planned on doing a training scenario/exercise with them this spring at their suggestion. Those guys have capabilities that I doubt will be able to be replaced very easily. The hoist, long range with the blackhawk with the extra fuel tanks, etc. I bet we see fatalities from MVA's on the Steese increase. MAST can get there in minutes and these guys have saved a lot of lives over the years.
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  4. #4
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Sorry to hear...

    Sorry to hear about the choppers being grounded. On a side note, you can get an AIG Sportsman's travel insurance policy. It has the normal trip cancellation coverage and such. But I got it for the property loss and evacuation insurance. It will cover $2,500/person for lost/stolen gear and includes evacuation insurance. I used it on my last two float trips. It was about $115/person. My wife and I got it so we would have $5,000 coverage for our gear. I hate trusting the airlines when traveling with expensive items like guns/fly rods. The evacuation insurance sounds like a better idea now than ever. Below is a link with some details about the AIG Sportsmans travel insurance if anyone is interested. I bought mine from AIG main website, but found some specific info on the policy at the below site.

    http://www.shotgunsafaris.com/Travel...el%20Guard.htm
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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snyd View Post
    Those guys have capabilities that I doubt will be able to be replaced very easily. The hoist, long range with the blackhawk with the extra fuel tanks, etc.
    not to mention weather capabilities, night vision, IR, training, etc...some private firm may have some of these but you can bet they won't be on par with what our fighting forces have available

    Bad news? No - it's horrible news

    And not just for us outdoors enthusiasts and motorists on far flung miles of highway - these guys can also be the only medivac option for bush communities in the interior if weather, natural disasters, etc prevent the use of the airplane services that usually fill that role

  6. #6

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    The problem is one of equipment as much as anything. Even if a private provider was willing to work within the limitations of low margins and competition with fixed wing services, there exists at this time very few solutions (if any) for civilian rotor-wing aircarft that have the combination of useful load and range to do the mission as compared to the UH-60 with extended fuel pods.

    The Air Force Rescue Squadron Reservists in Anchorage will continue to collaborate on civilian search and rescue missions statewide as provided in their mandate, but they come with more strings attached than MAST (they are not a medi-vac service - they rescue people in the backcountry) and the response times are much longer.

    I personally think it is long overdue for the state to consider purchasing a second A-Star helicopter and stationing it in Fairbanks, with paramedic or EMT-3 trained troopers manning it. But again, it cannot do everything the Blackhawks can do, it is limited by fuel capacity.

    It is worth mentioning that this was one of (if not THE) last MAST programs in the United States. Other bases around the county had outsourced their med-i-vac services to private helicopter ambulance services long ago. That's right, even on bases where US Army aeromedical evacuation companies were stationed, private providers were actually the ones flying out to the training areas on large bases and picking up Army personnel injured in accidents, etc. The Army is going to have to find a way to service the large swaths of training areas at Wainwright and Greeley with private helicopter ambulances. Presumably this private provider once established will service fuel range-accessible areas surrounding Fairbanks and the highway corridors, for a $price. But the bush communities a long way away will suffer, and backcountry search and rescue will suffer.

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    Member Akheloce's Avatar
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    Default

    To clear a few things up here...

    The Rescue Coordination Center on Ft. Richardson makes sure that every square inch of Alaska is covered by rescue assets at all times. Given certain instances (units out of town, maintenance, etc) these resources are shuffled around on occasion, but there will never be any holes. The 68th Med out of Ft. Wainwright is one of the least significant, since you still have the 211th RQS at Eielson. The Pave Hawks usually maintain a higher rescue alert status than the Army did at Wainwright.

    The western part of the state is covered by the Army National guard by facilities in Nome and Bethel. Southcentral is covered by the Air National Guard at Kulis. Southeast is jointly covered by the Army Guard at Juneau, and the USCG at Sitka, and the Aleutians are covered by USCG Kodiak.

    As any of these facilities become inoperable due to deployments, equipment, or manpower issues, the RCC will notify adjacent units that they may have to cover another area.

    Additionally, the RCC uses certain criteria for issuing mission numbers. If a civilian operator can execute the mission, it will do so since it is ultimately less expensive, and less detrimental to the private economy. Military assets are sent as a last resort, when there are extenuating circumstances preventing a civilian fixed wing, or helo from safely accomplishing the mission.

    Oh, and AKflyer, I've been on PLENTY of medevac missions, not just rescue missions. If life or limb is involved, then the Air Guard Pave Hawks will still respond...

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    A few years later my former supervisor went off a bridge on a snowmobile and broke his back. He was taken to a nearby cabin of a friend, and that friend's son was in the National Guard. He made a radio-phone call to the Armory on Ft. Rich who then contacted a Pavehawk that was already in the air. They picked him up and delivered him to Providence.

    No charge.

    Now that's really neat, but I'll bet my medical insurance company would have wished I'd have gotten in that Pavehawk, too...........
    Haven't heard it in awhile, but Congress has considered legislation and / or discussed in the past charging for civilian rescues involving military aircraft or military assests.

  9. #9
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default update...

    Looks like Guardian is going to undercut the national guard's plans to move a bird to Fairbanks. I hope they come up with equipment and experienced pilots that can handle this huge task.

    http://newsminer.com/news/2008/apr/1...y-rescue-unit/
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Akheloce View Post
    Oh, and AKflyer, I've been on PLENTY of medevac missions, not just rescue missions. If life or limb is involved, then the Air Guard Pave Hawks will still respond...
    Interesting, and nice to hear. I was only going on what personnel from 11 RCC told me themselves.

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