Med Flight Staff, Hospital Begin to Heal

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Mark Hanson, Director of Emergency Medical Services for University of Wisconsin Hospital and ClinicsMADISON- Three days after the crash of a University of Wisconsin Hospital's Med Flight helicopter, the UW Health community continues to mourn the loss of the three crew members who died on board. Although the second helicopter remains grounded at this time, plans are underway to resume the emergency transport service's life-saving work as soon as possible.

In the meantime, area hospitals (including those in Milwaukee, Marshfield, La Crosse, Neenah and Rockford) have stepped in to provide air medical services. UW Hospital's Level 1 Trauma Center, however, continues to receive patients.

In the wake of Saturday's accident, Hanson commented, "It's kind of a surreal situation. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of support. We have a link on [the UW Health website] that people can send condolence messages. There are a lot of messages that are very emotional and touching."
As the investigation into the tragic crash of the Med Flight continues, questions have been raised about the type of safety equipment on the helicopter. Aaron Todd, chief executive officer of Air Methods Corporation, the air ambulance company that leases the helicopters to UW Hospital, acknowledged that the EC 135 Air Ambulance had yet to be retrofitted with night vision goggles and a terrain avoidance system. Both items were safety features recommended by the National Transportation and Safety Board in 2006 for air medical helicopters.

Todd stated, "Air Methods did indeed embrace that recommendation and was well on its way to retrofitting its entire fleet. It is important to note that these aircraft were fully air worthy. The fact that they did not yet have this equipment did not compromise their ability to perform their mission safely."

According to Mike Allen, senior vice president of hospital-based services with Air Methods, approximately 1/3 of all medical transports occur at night. The pilots work a 12-hour normal duty shift. Federal Aviation Administration regulations prevent going over 14 hours.

Air Methods is cooperating fully with the ongoing NTSB investigation. Allen commented that they are waiting for the NTSB report before drawing any conclusions as to the cause of the crash.
On Sunday evening, a nurse from the emergency department crafted ribbons for staff to wear in honor of the crew. Hanson commented that it was one more example of the incredible support that has been shown by everyone.

When asked how they were dealing with the loss, Hanson responded, "We've lost three brothers a day and a half ago. Young, promising professionals that still had a lot to offer. We'll carry on their professionalism, their skills, their knowledge of flight medicine and their enthusiasm."

A moment of silence was observed across UW Hospital and Clinics late Monday afternoon in honor of Darren Bean, MD, Mark Coyne, RN, and pilot Steve Lipperer.
Pictured above is Mark Hanson, director of emergency medical services for UW Hospital and Clinics.

Date Published: 05/16/2008

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