A number of factors go into deciding whether to call for an emergency medical helicopter - but cost isn't one of them.
James Stockman, director of North Country Emergency Medical Services Program Agency, described for 7 News under what circumstances a helicopter is summoned.
Stockman's comments were general, but come after 7 News reported on the case of Morris Rosenfield, an 83 year old Chaumont man.
In February, Rosenfield, a heart patient, experienced chest pains. The pains ultimately proved to be minor, but Rosenfield ended up being flown to Syracuse, at a cost of $39,244.89. Rosenfield is still waiting to find out how much his insurance will cover.
(Read, watch our original report here.)
The price of the trip raised questions about who decides when a medical flight is necessary.
Stockman's agency, based in Canton, helps ambulance squads across the north country with questions of protocol - what to do in a given emergency situation.
According to Stockman, the decision to bring in a helicopter begins with "dispatch," (what most people think of as 9-1-1), which can put an aircraft on stand-by, depending on the severity of the call.
Then, the highest qualified person on the scene will decide whether an aircraft is needed.
"When you arrive at the scene, you have to make that call, based on your training and what you ascertain is going on with the patient," Stockman said.
Stockman said there are guidelines to help decide whether to call for a helicopter. and those guidelines include high risk patients - like someone with a recent heart procedure, as in Rosenfeld's case.
And what about cost? Stockman said that shouldn't factor in.
"When we're dealing with life or death situations, can you put a price on a human life?" he said.
Friday, December 19, 2014, Watertown, NY
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