By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Get on board — that was part of the message Tuesday during the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s monthly membership luncheon in Williamsburg.
Mike Ashurst, membership sales manager for the AirMedCare Network which includes the Air Evac Lifeteam, was the featured speaker for Tuesday’s event held at the Cumberland Inn.
According to Air Evac’s website, www.lifeteam.net, the Lifeteam was established in Missouri by local citizens in 1985 near the Ozark Mountains.
“Although air ambulances were primarily based in metropolitan areas at the time, the company founders believed that the people who needed air medical transport the most were those living in rural areas, often far away from a hospital,” states the website.
At the beginning of his presentation, Ashurst shared an 18-minute YouTube video featuring testimonials of people who benefitted from Air Evac’s services.
Ashurst explained that getting critical patients to specialty hospitals in rural areas is twice as difficult as it is in urban regions.
“That’s why we are in rural areas,” he said.
Right now the Air Evac units are housed in the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport, and according to Ashurst, some units regularly spend time in Corbin at Baptist Health.
Ashurst explained financial benefits realized if residents become members of the Air Evac program. He said the cost of an average emergency helicopter flight is approximately $25,000.
The cost of membership starts at $50 a year for a single member, according to Ashurst.
He said that membership with their program “is not an insurance program,” but that the teams are in it to save lives.
“We will fly you whether you’re a member or not,” Ashurst said.
He explained that if an Air Evac member has insurance, and that insurance pays, for example, 80 percent of the cost of a medical flight, then the remaining 20 percent falls back on Air Evac.
“We assume the rest of the cost if you’re a member,” Ashurst said.
If that same patient was not a member, they would be stuck with 20 percent of that $25,000 — a total of $5,000 out of pocket for the patient.
According to County Projects Director Amber Owens, the AIr Evac team in Whitley County has been in place for four years. Judge/Executive Pat White Jr. added that the team also has a fixed-wing plane at the ready.
Ashurst explained that the plane is used only when a patient must be transported more than 150 miles from an emergency site.
What makes having that plane at the ready so convenient for the Tri-County and southeastern Kentucky region, according to Ashurst, is that while the company has presence in 26 states, only two bases have planes — and the Williamsburg-Whitley County Airport is one of those two bases.
Also during the luncheon Tuesday, several new businesses were welcomed to the Chamber, including Air Evac Lifeteam, Minuteman Press, Catherine’s Crafts and More, the American Heart Association and Verizon Wireless.