SUNY Canton’s North Country Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Program helped bring air medical transportation back to the North Country.
Air Methods Corporation announced that it would begin operating two medical helicopters in Jefferson and St. Lawrence County beginning this June at a press conference held the morning of Wednesday, March 14, at Samaritan Medical Center.
The announcement came after nearly five years of meetings and negotiations with area medical agencies, hospitals, first responders and medical flight services, according to Ann M. Smith, director of the North Country EMS Program.
“This is a big win for us and our area’s first responders,” Smith said. “It’s an even larger win for North Country residents who will benefit from the life-saving services provided by Air Methods.”
The helicopters will extend air ambulance service to more communities and add faster medical response for critically ill or injured patients in need of specialized treatment. The first of the two helicopters will be located in Watertown, and the second will be stationed in Potsdam.
Smith explained patients previously would need to be stabilized locally and transported by ground to advanced specialty facilities outside of the area. “In cases like a heart attack or a stroke, each minute increases the chance of survival,” she said.
In 2007, the Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic (MAST) was removed from service and stopped providing this much-needed service in the area. The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization worked with agencies to begin replacing the service. The Organization’s research indicated in 2010 more than 500 emergencies at hospitals in the Fort Drum region met the criteria for air medical transport.
The endeavor to re-establish medical flights received backing from Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, and Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell.
The North Country EMS Program will continue to work with area hospitals and first responders to expedite the process and aid Air Methods Corporation as they begin to provide airlift services. Smith said they would share office space at SUNY Canton with personnel from the company if necessary.
Smith and her staff help facilitate emergency medical services and provide technical support to area volunteer and paid support agencies. The EMS Program also serves as the credentialing agency for advanced life-support personnel in the tri-county area.
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