By John Laferriere
If you’ve ever seen a news story about a seriously injured person being flown by helicopter to a Boston area hospital, you were probably watching Boston MedFlight in action. Most of us don’t think about emergency medical transport until we see it happening, and even then, we may only have the vaguest idea of how these emergency services operate. Boston MedFlight was founded in 1985 through a collaborative effort of six of Boston’s leading medical centers, and is currently based at Hanscom Air Force Base, with additional bases in Lawrence and Plymouth MA. They are a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization providing critical care transport to the most severely ill or injured patients throughout the region.
On June 7, Boston MedFlight held a ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of a $17 million project to build their new headquarters and primary aircraft hangar at Hanscom Field in Bedford. This follows a successful proposal by Boston MedFlight to Massport last year for the development of a newly available parcel of land at the civil airfield. The new headquarters, scheduled to open in the spring of 2018, will house the communications center, medical training facilities, a hanger for helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, garages for ground ambulances, and space for medical, aviation, operations and administrative staff.
The groundbreaking ceremony included remarks by Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts, who spoke about the important role Boston MedFlight plays in providing critical care and rapid transport of patients to Boston area hospitals. After the speakers and ceremony were finished, attendees were able to view one of the helicopters as well as ambulances operated by Boston MedFlight and had a chance to speak to some of the pilots, nurses, and paramedics who are part of this impressive organization.
Wearing blue flight suits, the crew members exude competence and dedication to a job where the stakes could not be higher. They spoke of ongoing training and education programs provided in part by highly skilled senior medical staff from the areas leading medical centers, the sophisticated emergency medical equipment capabilities on board all vehicles, the high-tech safety equipment that allows their aircraft to operate in adverse weather conditions, and the teamwork that has developed over the years between Boston MedFlight and the area medical centers. Behind it all is the dedication to the patient, captured in the company’s motto, “Your Life. Our Mission.” Interested readers are encouraged to visit Boston MedFlight’s website to learn more, including several moving patient profiles.
A few numbers: 4020 patient transports in FY2016, an increase of 14% over FY2015. More than 25% of patients are neonatal and pediatric. Provided over $3.2 million in unreimbursed care in 2016. Provided service to 130 hospitals and 195 cities and towns in 12 states.
As a way to underscore their dedication to the patients they transport, Boston MedFlight held their 3rd Annual Patient Reunion at Hanscom Field on Sunday, June 11, with over 400 attending, including 100 patients and their families. Held in Hangar 10, Boston MedFlight made it a fun afternoon, with music, food, T-shirts, tours of the helicopters, plane and ambulances they operate, plus a magician, dancing, and games for the kids. Most importantly, the event provided a chance for patients and their family members to connect with the Boston MedFlight staff who, in many cases, saved their lives. More than one crew member noted that the patients encounter the Boston MedFlight staff on probably the worst day of their lives, and the reunion can provide a degree of closure to that traumatic day.
You and I may never need the services of Boston MedFlight, but we can all be thankful that they exist and are such an important and effective part of our emergency medical services here in New England and beyond. Consider making Boston MedFlight part of your charitable giving, if you are able.
Editor’s Note, per the MedFlight website: No emergency transport request is ever turned away by Boston MedFlight for financial reasons. Boston MedFlight has a knowledgeable staff of billing specialists that assist patients with the insurance process.