This article originally appeared in the Friday July 12, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
Hidalgo County EMS is celebrating one month of providing air supported emergency service in Hidalgo County after it ceased for nearly six months.
After the Missouri-based Air Evac Lifeteam immediately halted operations last January, rotor ambulance service returned to the Valley last month by the privately-owned Hidalgo County EMS/South Texas Air Med with the Bell 407 GX rotor ambulance-a helicopter that can fly up to 140 miles per hour-drastically reducing hospital arrival times.
“It will allow us to get to the scene and launch to the hospital at a much faster pace than on the ground,” Paul Vazaldua, a representative with Hidalgo County EMS said. “It’s the latest tool offering state of the art technology and lifesaving equipment for the county.”
According to Vazaldua, the county has facilities such as McAllen Medical Center and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance that are trauma centers-equipped to provide the highest level of surgical care for trauma patients.
“They also already had helipads for us to use,” Vazaldua said. “It is imperative that a rotor service is providing the volume that those centers require to keep those trauma level certifications.”
The helicopter will be staffed 24/7 with a pilot, a flight medic and maintenance crew. It will be housed at McAllen’s McCreery Aviation Co. and the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg.
“In the days after our rotos services returned, we’ve received calls as far as San Isidro and Lin San Manuel where we were able to deliver them to the hospital in minutes,” Vazaldua said. “Historically Air Evac saw on average 50 calls per month. at the rate we are going, that number will increase.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” Robert D. Martínez chief medical officer for DHR said. “We have had a helicopter ambulance landing pad for years across the street from the emergency room, so it is right where they need to be right now. People land there when they need to – it’s set up and ready to go.”
Martínez credited Kenny Ponce- president of Hidalgo County EMS in investing into the helicopter air ambulance service.
“Restoring rotor ambulance service to Hidalgo County is the right thing to do,” Ponce said. “It’s something we have been working on the past several months to ensure that this community has this type of service.”