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“For more than 30 minutes on a frigid February morning, Robert Findley lay unconscious in the back of an ambulance as paramedics hand-pumped oxygen into his lungs,” Sarah Jane Tribble wrote for Kaiser Health News. “They were waiting for a helicopter to land at a helipad just across the icy parking lot next to Mercy Hospital Fort Scott, which closed in December. The night before, Findley had fallen on the slick driveway outside his home while checking the mail. He had laughed it off, ate dinner and went to bed. In the morning, he wouldn’t wake up. Linda, his wife, called 911. When the Fort Scott, Kan., paramedics arrived, they suspected he had an intracerebral hemorrhage. Robert Findley needed specialized neurological care and the closest available center was located 90 miles north in Kansas City, Mo. After rural hospitals like the one in Fort Scott close, one of the thorniest dilemmas communities face is how to provide emergency care, particularly for patients who require specialized expertise. In times of crisis, the local emergency workers can find themselves dealing with changing leadership, budgets and questions about where to take patients. Air ambulance companies are often seen as a key part of the solution. The dispatcher for Air Methods, a private air ambulance company, checked with at least four bases before finding a pilot to accept the flight for Robert Findley, according to a 911 tape obtained by Kaiser Health News through a Kansas Open Records Act request. ‘My Nevada crew is not available and my Parsons crew has declined,’ the operator tells Fort Scott’s emergency line about a minute after taking the call. Then she says she will be ‘reaching out to’ another crew. Nearly seven minutes passed before one was en route. When Linda Findley sat at her kitchen counter in late May and listened to the 911 tape, she blinked hard: ‘I didn’t know that they could just refuse. … I don’t know what to say about that.’ Both Mercy and Air Methods declined to comment on the case.” Sarah Jane Tribble, “Rural Hospital Closures Leave Gaps In Emergency Care : Shots – Health News” NPR.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...