Thursday, February 5, 2015

Medevac to be stationed in Hugo

By Will Bublitz

A medical evacuation helicopter and its crew is going to be permanently stationed in Hugo beginning this year.

The formal announcement was made during the Board of Directors meeting of the Lincoln Community Hospital & Care Center (LCHCC) on Thursday, Jan. 29.

“We’re very proud to announce that we’re real close to finalizing an arrangement with AirLife out of Denver to place a medical helicopter full time here in Hugo,” Kevin Stansbury, the hospital’s new Chief Executive Officer, said.

AirLife is a Denver-based emergency medical/critical care transport service of the HealthOne system of hospitals, clinics and healthcare plazas.  It provides both air and ground critical care transport for both adult and pediatric medical/trauma patients.

“We’re about 99 percent completed with the negotiations with AirLife,” Stansbury said. “We should see things happening here in 45 to 60 days.”


AirLife wants to position its helicopter and crew in Hugo because of its central location on the eastern plains of Colorado. The air medical evacuation service will operate on a 24/7 basis to cover the state’s east central region from Denver to the Kansas border.

Stansbury explained the AirLife helicopter would be based in Hugo at the concrete helipad located across First Avenue from LCHCC. The property is owned by the Genoa-Hugo School District.
“Frank (Reeves, school superintendent) and the school have been very supportive,” he said. “We’ve talked about some kind of long-term lease agreement where the hospital would essentially take control of that property. Up to now, it’s just been a gentlemen’s agreement for the helipad.”
In addition to using the helipad, AirLife also wants to install some support facilities for the helicopter’s operation.

“Some structures will have to put up next to the helipad that will include a maintenance building, storage and a fuel facility,” Stansbury said. “They will also be putting a fence around it. They’re also likely to want to rehab the helipad itself.”

Along with the helicopter, an AirLife crew will be stationed in Hugo. That crew consists of a pilot, co-pilot, and two flight paramedics/flight nurses.

AirLife will be paying all the expenses related to the construction of the support facilities needed for the  helicopter as well as all of its operational costs.

“What’s good is that we will have this additional capability here at no cost to us,” Stansbury said.
The announcement that AirLife would be locating one of its helicopters next to LCHCC was welcomed by the hospital’s staff.

“This quickens everything,” Dan Walker, Director of Nursing, said. “This means we’ll be getting the patients to the trauma center much faster by having a helicopter here. It will save a lot more lives.”
Dr. Mark Olson, LCHCC’s Chief of Staff, agreed.

“This is huge,” he said. “It can cut in half the time it takes to get a patient to the ER. The difference in getting them here quicker by a half hour to 45 minutes can be huge.”

While the AirLife helicopter will be a great addition to local medical care, the hospital officials stressed that medical ground transportation by LCHCC and the local area’s other ambulance services will continue to be absolutely essential in responding to emergency calls and transporting patients.
Moving onto another topic, Stansbury said the “second big development that we’re proud of” is improving LCHCC’s ability to provide care for stroke patients. He explained that he has been negotiating with two Denver-area stroke specialist services that provide this kind of assistance through the use of telemedicine.

“We’re very good at what we do now, but there are somethings we can’t do because we don’t have the resources,” he said. “These two services offer stroke specialist neurologists in Denver.”
Using the new telemedicine equipment, the Denver neurologists will be able to visually assess a stroke patient’s condition and talk directly with the attending physician at LCHCC.

“These neurologists can see the patient, help assess the patient, dialogue with the providers, monitor the vital signs and help make a diagnosis,” Stansbury said. “If necessary, they can recommend medications or made a decision on transport. This is an example of us leveraging new technology to improve the care of our patients. When combined with the AirLife helicopter, this is a big jump in our capability to serve the surrounding area with critical care.”

Dr. Olson also expressed his enthusiasm for the new telemedicine stroke service.

“This is the first time that telemedicine has made sense to me,” he said. “With this new technology, you can control the screen. This is a huge step forward in telemedicine.”

Also during Thursday’s meeting, the board listened to a presentation by Ashley Ager on the work of her three-person department that handles  the Activities program. The goal of that seven-day-a-week program is to lift the spirits of the Care Center residents and keep them involved in life.

“Our job is to meet the intellectual, spiritual and social needs of our residents,” Ager said. “We don’t want people to feel that when they bring a family member to a nursing home it’s the end of the line. That’s not true. We enhance your life while you’re here.”

Ager said the Activities program offers 25-plus activities and games to Care Center residents. This includes one-on-one activities and games for residents who are unable to leave their rooms.
“We play bingo, poker, you-name-it,” she said. “We offer evening programs. We also have a beautician that comes on Wednesdays.”

The activities are essential to maintaining the morale of the Care Center’s residents, Ager said. The Activities program brings in representatives from the local churches to conducts Bible studies. Group discussions and other social activities are held to keep the Care Center’s residents involved and interacting with others.

In other business Thursday, the board was presented with the hospital’s monthly financial statements. Finance Director Patsy Shields said her department has reduced the time needed for the receipt of accounts receivable payments to 60 days or less. One of the board members remarked that 60 days was “the gold standard” for accounts receivable in the business world today.

The board was also presented with the monthly reports on patient numbers for the month of December. According to those statistics, the hospital’s in-patient numbers took a dramatic rise going from a daily average of 1.5 patients to 3.2 in December. The same was true its swing-bed patient numbers that also increased from an daily average of 2.5 in November to 3.1 last month. The observation patients remained steady at an average of one per day for a third consecutive month.
The Emergency Room handled the highest number of patients for the year in December. The ER’s doctors, paramedics and nurses dealt with a total of 257 patients compared to 235 in November. The previous highest monthly total was in May when the ER treated 252 patients.

To help the board members understand the types of patients seen by the ER in December, they were divided into the following categories – 193 medical, 25 falls, 7 chest pains, 6 sprains/strains, 5 lacerations, 2 motor vehicle accidents, 2 shortness of breath, 2 fractures, 1 fall, 1 overdose and 1 suicide attempt.

While Emergency Room visits were up in December, the number of ER transfers from LCHCC to larger metropolitan hospitals also rose. They went from 16 in November to 21 last month.

The number of surgeries and medical procedures handled by the LCH's specialty physicians declined last month. A total of 22 procedures and 7 surgeries were performed last month compared to 31 procedures and 9 surgeries in November.

LCH’s Care Center had a daily average of 25 residents for the month of December.

The patient statistics for LCH’s Home Health & Hospice were also presented. Its nursing staff saw 21 Home Health and 2 Hospice patients during November. During that month, they conducted a total of 102 Home Health and 4 Hospice visits.

The overall number of patient visits to LCH’s four clinics was on the rise last month to 1,347 after a decline to 1,249 in November. The December patient visits per clinic were: Specialty 184, Hugo (Gordon Clinic) 409, Limon 503 and Flagler 251.

Elon Calkum, the Behavioral Health director, reported his department had performed 120 visits during the month of December.

Rounding out Thursday’s meeting, the board held an election of officers for the new year. Keith James was re-elected as chairman, while Lucas Hohl was chosen as vice chairman. Linda Orrell will serve as the board’s secretary.

The board also welcomed a new board member, Linda Olsen, who is filling the vacancy left by the retirement of Warren “Chopper” McCue after 19 years of service. In addition, the board members welcomed Lincoln County Commissioner Ed Schifferns who will be the county commissioners’ representative at the board meetings.

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