MTEMS Helicopter Plan Called ‘Dirty Bird’

A decision by Kosciusko Community Hospital and Multi-Township EMS to utilize one air ambulance service over another could make the difference between life or death for some Kosciusko County patients.

An email distributed Wednesday by MTEMS directors Mark Pepple and Scott Sigerfoos to several emergency responders, stated MTEMS and KCH medical staff has made the decision to utilize Lutheran Air services as a “first call.” For years, both Lutheran and Samaritan have been used.

While most emergency responders we spoke to do not want to be identified for this article fearing repercussions for speaking out, they are all in agreement that the decision is strictly political and not in the best interest of county residents.

The email sent yesterday read, “After talking with our Medical Direction, Kosciusko Community Hospital, and reviewing our usage the decision has been made to utilize Lutheran Air as our first call.”

Although the email assured that times and services provided by both air ambulance services are “very comparable and both provide exceptional care,” the emergency responders we spoke with disagree, at least on the matter of response time.

Kevin McSherry is the president of the Kosciusko County Firemen’s Association and did agree to go on record. He said, “I’m afraid there’s more involved with this decision than patient care because of the Lutheran network … it’s kind of a dirty bird.”

Lutheran currently has just one helicopter that is stationed at the Fort Wayne airport. Samaritan has two helicopters, one at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne and one less than 20 miles away from the county line at the Fulton County Airport in Rochester.

Pepple’s email said Lutheran will soon be stationing a second helicopter at the Wabash Airport, approximately 30 miles away in Miami County. “In the air that’s not a lot of time (distance), but the type of helicopter Samaritan uses most of the time is a faster model than what Lutheran uses,” said McSherry.

Samaritan, which is operated by nonprofit Parkview Hospital, travels at a speed of 180 mph. Lutheran Air, operated by for-profit Lutheran Health Network, travels at 150 mph. Samaritan’s website says average lift off time after receiving dispatch orders is 5.6 minutes. Lutheran Air’s website notes average lift off time is 7 minutes.

“We always train first responders that time is of the essence,” said one emergency responder who spoke on condition of anonymity, “so why are we now saying it’s OK to wait maybe 40 minutes at a scene for a critical patient when minutes matter?”

The real reason for the change in determining the first service called is likely based on the fact that KCH is a Lutheran Health Network hospital. As noted in the email from Pepple and Sigerfoos, “There is though a long-term benefit of Kosciusko County aligning with the Lutheran Health Network.”

And while the long-term benefit for KCH is obviously financial, the risk to the community cannot be overlooked. McSherry said first responders have a goal to save lives and get a patient medical attention as soon as possible. “I’m bullheaded enough that I’ll tell dispatch to call whoever I want. Fire departments will not lay down and be told what to do. I also feel very comfortable with the local personnel on Sam and we feel very good when we see them step off the aircraft,” he said.

McSherry, who also serves as the Burket Fire Department chief, added, “We have never used Lutheran Air in Burket. I heard the long-range plan is to put (a helicopter) at Warsaw Airport and that would be great for everyone in the county … but right now I’ve got to worry about my patrons in the southwest corner as well as Mickey Scott (Syracuse Fire Department chief) needs to think about his people up around Syracuse. Mark Pepple is playing with fire here.”

Pepple has told that MTEMS does not comment on policy issues. Representatives of KCH and Lutheran Air have not yet returned our phone calls.

Current comparisons between Samaritan and Lutheran Air:     
Samaritan facts                                                 Lutheran Air facts
2 helicopters, Fort Wayne and Rochester             1 helicopter in Fort Wayne
Travels 180 mph                                                 Travels 150 mph
51% of flights are trauma-related                        No information on flights
Flight crew – pilot, nurse, paramedic                   Flight crew: pilot, nurse, paramedic
Can carry 2 patients                                            Can carry 2 patients
100 mile radius of Fort Wayne and Rochester      150 mile radius of Fort Wayne
40% of flights are to trauma scenes                     13% of flights are to trauma scenes
Average 5.6 minutes to lift off                             Average 7 minutes to lift off



Stacey Page Online Feed Facebook: social networking Twitter Linked in: Professional contact information Google+: Real-life sharing rethought for the web Print Friendly and PDF


MTEMS Helicopter Plan Called ‘Dirty Bird’ — 11 Comments

  1. Seriously, there should not be a “one call/one flight service” only when it comes to patient’s lives! I work at PRMC so I am a little partial on who to use, but the answer is whoever can get there faster!

  2. I may be partial to Sam but after our oldest was in an accident that required a site landing and took BOTH heli’s to transport critical victims ( son included) I will absolutely demand Parkview if anyone in the family every requires it.. the person or next of kin should be able to request which one he/she wants.. this is all political since KCH is Luthern.. There is no way around the fact that this has to do with the ALL MIGHTY DOLLAR !!!

  3. Very interesting. Especially since it was the Lutheran helicopter that landing last Saturday evening at Chapman Lake…and that did not end well.

  4. It is all about politics anymore. I was a volunteer advanced emt for 10yrs and because of all the politics in play I resigned and let my certifications drop. It has become too much about filling pockets and less about the patients care. Its sad it has come to this. I give props to Mr. McSherry and I hope the rest of our fire depts in the area follow his morals!

  5. Sorry Kevin, you’re not seeing the ‘big picture’ here. It’s all about the money, NOT peoples health and welfare.

  6. Wow, you people are pathetic. I work for EMS in K County, Whitley, and Allen and have been on many scene flights with both Samaratin and Lutheran Air. Both services provide excellent care and with the short distance they fly in the air their air speed really doesn’t matter that much. Its just like going on the ground in a short distance running lights and sirens only shaves off a small amount of time. KCH can call who they want when it comes to picking up a patient at the hospital. As for the county they can use anyone. Sounds like it is going to be the preferance to use Lutheran Air if available but fact is that they may not make a lot of trauma flights but they do make tons of interhospital flights that take everything in the power of the paramedic and nurse to keep some of these critical care patients alive.The medical flights both of the Air ambulances do tend to be much more difficult then most of the trauma runs. Also you can’t compare run volumes between them because its the personnel on board that have the experience not the aircraft itself. You will still be getting the first available helicopter no one ever said Samaratin was not going to be used. Also Lutheran Air does transport to Parkview so just because you get Lutheran Air you can still request to be flown to Parkview. Its not all about the money. Speaking of money Parkview spends tons of it on advertising their Air amulance program to be the first to pop in anyones mind. Most of all this article upsets me because you are attacking our local emergency services and their directors who do work endlessly to provide the best care available to K county residents. K County with MTEMS, Webster and Syracuses Paramedic services have the best Protocals in Northeran Indiana because of the folks at MTEMS. Like someone else already said. Stop complaining about it. If you don’t like it write someone who can not spread a bunch of negativity on a talk of the town gossip feed.

    • You go EMS driver. This is an outstanding community, with lots to offer and wonderful people; however, I am amazed at how much they hate the local healthcare system. What the heck is wrong with people – does it make them feel better or bigger to state how lousy our EMS, Hospital and doctors are?? Wondering what the psychology behind this is…

  7. It’s not always about the money. Do you realize the counties that have Parkview hospitals are REQUIRED to call Samaritan? If Sam 1 isn’t available they’ll send Sam 2. I know this because I worked for a Parkview county. For the counties along the state line this adds 25 minutes of flight time. Lutheran Air will call Sam if they can’t take the flight where as Sam 1 will call Sam 2. There was a time when I needed a second helicopter and Sam 2 wasn’t available. Instead of getting Lutheran Air, I got a helicopter from Indy. Politics are ALWAYS involved when it comes to air service. I don’t care who I get as long as a get a helicopter!

  8. has nt kch always been in hot water because of so called cost effective behavior???….but when you are OWNED you will do as you are told or else be escorted to the outside via backdoors….ive seen quite a few times in my career….POLITICS…i have seen how the TRICKLE DOWN effects peoples GOOD INTENTIONS ….dont expect things to CHANGE….gradual deterioration will be seen in HEALTHCARE atmospheres…..CORPORATE RULES….ALWAYS HAS….ALWAYS WILL….im not a defeatist…im a realist…trained by experience…what can a few voices change???…can this DIRTY BIRD fly AGAINST THE WIND…??THE ANSWER IS YES IF CORPORATE SOCIETY can scare off the lay people ……i say CALL SAM !!! Warsaw Firemen…you do what you can live with…<3 …