I’m writing in response the the Keynoter’s Jan. 11 story “County considers Trauma Star addition, rules on Uber drivers.” LifeNet Key West is committed to serving the Lower Keys because we are also proud members of this community. Our team of flight nurses, flight medics, EMS pilots and A&P mechanics have lived here for decades.
It’s been our goal to have an open dialogue with the county and the community to address local health-care concerns and to continue to provide our lifesaving services for those in need as a helicopter air ambulance. In addition to reducing our rates in Monroe County by 30 percent on Sept. 1, 2016, we also proposed a cost-sharing plan that would allow us to continue to provide our lifesaving services to the citizens of Monroe County, and it would cost the county only $5.33 per resident per year (44 cents per month).
We understand that it’s taken some time to address these issues, however, our proposal keeps the same high-quality LifeNet critical-care access that exists today. This appears to be a win for both Monroe County and its residents by providing this critical service to your community without saddling taxpayers with excess personal liability and the burden of purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment and crews.
However, our proposal was rejected by County Administrator Roman Gastesi in an email on Dec. 18 stating, “I do not agree with paying LifeNet any subsidy.” This confused us as Monroe County expressed interest in paying much more for a membership program if one were available. Since no membership program is available in Florida, we proposed the patient liability subsidy as a viable alternative to cover the costs to patients over and above any amounts allowed by applicable insurance coverage. Routinely waiving patient cost-sharing co-payments and deductibles is prohibited for all healthcare providers, including Trauma Star.
If Monroe County were to consider all of the costs of its equipment and operations, especially the millions of dollars to acquire, maintain, train, and staff another Sikorsky S-76 to replace our service, we are confident that the county would come out much better with our proposed arrangement. From our 37 years of experience operating air medical locations across the country, we know it takes millions of dollars per aircraft to provide 24/7/365 access to these lifesaving services.
LifeNet has been committed to the Key West community since 2007, and this summer I was honored to deliver a baby in-flight. It was an inter-hospital transport and preterm labor and the baby was born at an extremely low birth weight of just two pounds. Mom and baby are doing fine and we continue to check in with them along the way during their post-flight hospital care.
I am sharing this story with you because Monroe County has the benefit of receiving two levels of services with our current air medical providers. If we leave, I feel it can potentially compromise some residents and tourists as they will be without access to certain hospitals not accommodated by Trauma Star. I would hope that a decision of this magnitude, where lives are on the line, is made only after thoroughly examining both options and reviewing all data.
I’d like to close by saying that we are a local business and your southernmost flight team and hope to continue to provide these lifesaving services for those in need.
Jo Thevenet, clinical base supervisor, Key West