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For more than 3 decades, the Starflight medevac program has been transporting critically injured and critically ill patients out of Chautauqua County to specialty care centers in Buffalo NY, Erie PA and beyond. Created in 1986 the program has been able to transport over 7,933 patients to tertiary care centers where a higher level of care is available. Throughout the early years, area foundations, tax dollars and philanthropic donations supported the program. As these dollars have been reallocated, the program that was once created by the community, will be looking towards the community for support.
The program’s first ever media day was hosted on Friday October 30th at the Starflight Hangar, located at 135 Allen Street in Jamestown New York. One of the goals of the event was to create media awareness of the changes the program has and will continue to endure. Guests were encouraged to network with Starflight team members including the Chief Flight Nurse, a Medical Director, medical crew and pilots. Several of the Starflight volunteer board members and former patients were also at the event to answer questions and talk with media about the importance of the program in the surrounding, rural communities.
One consistent topic during the event was program changes. Many changes have evolved throughout the past 30 years including changes in aviation and FAA requirements. The program was first conceptualized as a public use aircraft service which was self-regulated and billed minimally as a community service. In 2011, after several months of transitioning, Starflight became a Part 135 air carrier which would now allow the program to bill all insurance companies. As this was a great step forward, medical reimbursements would never cover the actual costs of operating the program. This change also brought many rules and regulations to comply with including adding more pilots and mechanics to the payroll and hangar updates.
The past 3 decades have brought changes in healthcare delivery. Changes and improvements in technology have allowed for better medical equipment such as heart monitors and respiratory ventilators which can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. Changes in protocols have required transport of many critically ill and critically injured patients to designated trauma, stroke and cardiac centers as specialty care centers began to emerge.
The aircraft has changed a couple times throughout the programs history. In 2009, Starflight, Inc. replaced the old military surplus helicopters with 2 new MD-900 Explorer helicopters. In addition to the purchase costs and regular maintenance costs, 2 new engines were installed, one in each aircraft. Several FAA requirements including a Helicopter Terrain Awareness Warning System (HTAWS) and Night Vision Goggle capabilities are being implemented.
Today, the Starflight program has endured many hardships and continues to be your local not-for-profit medevac service. In an effort to ensure the program is viable for the next 30 years, several outreach initiatives will be starting to evolve including fundraising, mailings and community events. The first fundraising event is scheduled in June 2016.
To learn more about the Starflight medevac program, visit www.Starflight.org. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the mission of Starflight, mail your gift to: Starflight, Inc., P.O. Box 382, Jamestown NY 14702.