Roosevelt General Hospital now has the ability to transport medical patients by air after signing a contract with Tristate CareFlight, an organization operating across five states.
"A couple of their officials came forward and approached us saying they wanted to expand their air care services in New Mexico," said RGH administrator Larry Leaming, who had never considered bringing flight care to Portales before he was approached by FlightCare.
"To actually come to a rural community like Roosevelt County is unusual," he said. "I was actually surprised they would come here and say, 'hey, we want to put a helicopter behind a 24-bed hospital. I was pleasantly surprised that there were some flight cares reaching out into the rural communities."
FlightCare has provided services to medical facilities in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.
New Mexico locations include Tucumcari, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.
Leaming said the final contract for the medical flight services was signed last week.
He said he and other hospital personnel weighed pros and cons of agreeing to a contract with the company for medical helicopter transport services and agreed there were no downsides.
"It's not going to cost RGH anything," Leaming said. "Tristate will bring in their own crews and bring in their own crew quarters and offices."
Leaming said a helicopter and its medical crew will be available at the hospital 24 hours a day after the first of the year.
He said the only additional cost to the hospital is insurance costs increasing by $4,000 a year, but the $500 per month FlightCare will pay the hospital for renting the space for their flight pad will more than cover the cost.
"It's not going to cost Roosevelt County residents anything either unless they use the service," Leaming said, adding he did not know what FlightCare charges per patient for their services.
FlightCare officials were unavailable for comment.
"I think it will definitely decrease the time of stay in the hospital for trauma patients," said John Bridges, RGH safety and emergency preparedness coordinator. "The acuity of the patient condition could make a difference, depending on whether they go by air or ground."
Bridges said transporting patients to Lubbock takes an hour and a half by ground and 30 minutes by air.
"That's one of the priorities in getting trauma patients to this facility as quickly as possible is to get them where they need to be to stabilize them and get them into surgery as quickly as possible," Bridges said. "It's statistically shown that the sooner you get them to the hospital, the higher their chances of survival."