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May 2, 2017 - 4:36pm

County renews contract with Mercy Flight for medical emergency response

posted by Howard B. Owens in Mercy Flight, news.

It was another busy year in Genesee County in 2016 for Mercy Flight, Bill Schutt, director of Mercy EMS locally, told members of the County Legislature at its Human Services Committee meeting on Monday.

The ambulance service received about 8,600 calls, which resulted in about 6,700 transports.

Mercy Flight itself received 189 requests and flew a total of 96 transport missions.

Those 189 requests not only included the time an airship went to a medical emergency scene, but all the times it was put on ground standby or in-air standby or was requested to do so, but couldn't fly because of weather.

Schutt explained that dispatchers operate off a set of protocols for determining whether to alert Mercy Flight to a possible emergency call for the helicopter and sometimes what dispatchers are being told from people at the scene sounds more serious than it might actually be. When a fire chief or medic arrives on scene, the situation can be clarified.

"You don't want to wait for a crew to get there to make an assessment because now you're there waiting for a helicopter," Schutt said.

With Mercy Flight handling all the calls they do, it isn't unusual to periodically get in a situation where all the ambulances are on calls or there is no ambulance close by a particular emergency. That's what makes the volunteer ambulances around the county so valuable.

"As a commercial ambulance, you would think you would want those volunteers to go away, but we need those volunteers," Schutt said. "We need those resources. There are always going to be the days where no matter how many ambulances you have in service, they are not going to be enough."

The Human Services Committee unanimously recommended approval of the Mercy Flight/Mercy EMS contract for the county, along with the continuation of the $12,800 contribution the county makes to help support the nonprofit service.

County Manager Jay Gsell explained that eight counties contribute to Mercy Flight's funding, but as the host county for the main ambulance services office and a host county for one of the agency's helicopters, it was important for Genesee County to provide financial assistance.

"This is part of our commitment, but it also aligns us with this vital service," Gsell said.

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