WASHINGTON CO. COMMISSIONERS SIGN OFF ON COLLABORATIVE EMS HELICOPTER PROGRAM

  

Washington County has unveiled a partnership which will provide emergency medical transport by helicopter at no cost to county residents.

EMS Director Kevin Deramus explains the Washington County multi-mission public safety rescue helicopter program to commissioners at their meeting Monday.

Commissioners at their meeting this (Monday) morning emphatically approved a contract between Washington County EMS and REACH Air Medical Services for a multi-mission public safety rescue helicopter program.

The program will not only provide air medical transport, but will also allow firefighting capabilities for rural grass fires.  The helicopter will also be fitted for search and rescue operations, including hoist rescue operations for water rescue.

EMS Director Kevin Deramus gave the details of the partnership to commissioners, saying the county has been approached three times since 2006 by different private for-profit air medical programs looking to build a program in Brenham. He said there is only one program like this in the state, and one of just a few in the nation.  Through this public/private partnership, he said Washington County will be able to provide much faster transport to definitive care, at no cost to citizens in the county.

 

 

Deramus said the total subscription cost is still being negotiated, but the cost should come out to around $3 per resident annually. The county will use money from its general fund to pick up the cost.

A concept graphic showing what the approved multi-mission helicopter will look like. The helicopter is being provided through an agreement with Washington County EMS and REACH Air Medical Services.

Through the contract, REACH will provide the multi-mission helicopter and complete flight service support, including aircraft operating costs, pilots, mechanics, and a hangar and crew quarters. The helicopter will be stationed at the Brenham Municipal Airport, and the county will work with the City of Brenham on refurbishing an existing hangar to use for the program.

Washington County EMS will manage and oversee the program, which calls for the hiring of about ten to 12 employees, such as crew chiefs, flight nurses and paramedics.  REACH will reimburse the county for all salaries, program direction, administrative oversight, and crew quarters.

The program is expected to begin around March or April of the new year, following a training period for new employees and the completion of necessary infrastructure at the airport.

Deramus said a program like this would have been impossible without REACH’s help and cooperation.

 

 

Commissioners had nothing but praise for the program. Commissioner Joy Fuchs called it an “amazing benefit for county residents”, while Commissioner Candace Bullock said it will be a “fantastic program for the community”.

Commissioner Don Koester said he is “very thankful” for this program, which he said will make Washington County EMS “the best EMS in Texas”. Commissioner Kirk Hanath commended Deramus’ ability to “think outside of the box” and not conform to industry standards.  He said this program is “historic” for the community, and is something worthy of recognition.  He also thanked REACH for their efforts in creating the partnership, calling them “a lifesaver”.

Several City of Brenham officials were in attendance to mark the occasion, including Mayor Milton Tate, City Manager James Fisher, and Councilman Clint Kolby. Tate said this is an exciting program that “everyone will benefit from”.

Following a unanimous vote from commissioners, the courthouse chambers erupted in applause. County Judge John Durrenberger said this is a “very significant day in Washington County”.

Also at today’s meeting, commissioners:

  • Tabled action on an amendment to the original proposal for the Washington County Courthouse Historic Master Plan.
  • Approved a resolution authorizing the Washington County Environmental Health Department to submit a grant application to the Brazos Valley Council of Governments’ Regional Solid Waste Management Grants Program, for funding to conduct a local tire cleanup event for all county residents.
  • Approved a resolution casting votes for the candidates for membership for the Washington County Appraisal District Board of Directors.
  • Heard a series of monthly reports.
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16 Comments

  1. People, read the article completely before asking questions. Every question asked on here in answered in the article.

  2. The government can call a tow truck company that the government contracts with to tow your car if you are in a wreck. The air ambulance works the same way.

    1. Yes but a tow truck bill is a few hundred dollars. The average charge for an air ambulance is over $10,000. How will you know if your insurance covers this service?

  3. I am very proud to see that our County Commissioners Court supports the EMS Director in bringing this forward as was said “thinking outside the box”. Our community is growing and we need to prepare for the future not sit stagnant. I feel confident in our EMS Director and Commissioners Court in their ability of the negotiating process of any and all contractual obligations. Mr. Deramus is very thorough as well as the County Commissioners Court members. They all work hard at protecting the taxpayers of Washington County.
    Congratulations on a spectacular decision adding a new highlight to this growing community…God bless you all, I am thankful for such a positive project!

  4. I agree with ba $3.00 per resident that’s $105000 a year this is just a drop in the bucket for which it is going to cost to run this program they said they were going to hire 12 people so you can figure somewhere between $750,000 and close to a million dollars a year just for salaries then you have fuel cost hanger renovation helicopter repair and upkeep which REACH says it will reimberse the county for what agency is going to pay REACH we will wind up paying for this when all is said and done with through our taxes

    1. I have to agree, the math does not add up. If you assume online reports of a county population of roughly 35,000 people, the $105,000 per year does not come close to covering the cost of this program. There has to be more to it than this simple fee, Possibly the company will bill each patients personal medical insurance and accept whatever they pay to augment the county contribution. Somehow, they will have to make more money than the basic $3 fee. I would love to here more information on how this will work. u

      1. Yes, the company will bill the patient’s insurance and will be compensated. The patient will not be billed.

        1. So who is covering the cost for all of those without health insurance? As stated above, we will all be paying for this one way or another. I hope the county will produce some documentation and be transparent with the tax payers because this story is the first I have heard about this agreement. Somehow the Mayor and City Council were made aware but all of us in the community were left in the dark.

  5. This a great service for our citizens. No doubt many of us hope we will not have that service bill to pay for a family member and this step is a path to peace of mind. But tax payers do deserve a straight answer in regards to the actual amount the county will be paying every year. And if there is a remote possibility that any one gets a direct answer to that question it would be a public service to share it with the rest of us.

  6. So while the county Volunteer Fire Departments are struggling to keep the doors open and working with limited funding from the county, EMS can get a helicopter. This is a little one sided to me. Also this aircraft cannot help out of fires as they proposed as it is not initial attack qualified. So it will handle medical transports for a county that is surrounded by other medical helicopters. there is a medical helicopter in the following counties, Brazos -1, Fayette-1, Bastrop-1, Harris-11, FT Bend-4, so why is this needed at additional cost to the tax payer. The math just doe not add up!

  7. Trying to understand….the first paragraph says it free to county residents, furthur down its states “about $3.00 annually per household.” This does not make it “free.”

  8. This is wonderful, and according to today’s meeting—. all with no new cost to the taxpayers. Truly a great deal. The average charge for air ambulances is usually over $20,000 per incident, so what a great value to the county residents.

    1. You know when it sounds to good to be true it usually is. To me that is exactly what this seems, to good to be true.
      This will probably be like the EMS boat team running all over everywhere an never be in the County when needed. In today newspaper article it talks about rescue missions, sounds like it will be gone quit abit probably with the boat team. It has to be paid for somehow an I don’t think Washington Co. has enough to keep it busy or pay expenses.

  9. Can we get the rest of the story on where the funding is coming from to pay for this? $3 per county resident would maybe pay for the salary of one pilot.

    1. It may be wise to ask the county commissioners court how the air ambulance helicopter will work with insurance companies and hospital systems. Will they have agreements with big systems such as Memorial Hermann (who operate their own helicopters)?

      How will this impact the local Washington County Hospital in Brenham that many people rely on and which relies on ER cases to balance its budget?

      Will the county operate the billing of services for this air ambulance and if so will they have the power to place a lien on anyone who is transported in the helicopter but is uninsured or under insured and thus faced a potential bill of tens of thousands of dollars?

      Having an air ambulance crew on call 24-7 in a county with a small population is going to be very expensive, so has the current county budget reflected this increased cost?

      Who will actually own the helicopter? If the arrangement doesn’t pay for itself and the program is abandoned, who owns the chopper? Aviation listings show even used air ambulances selling for over $2 million.

      We little people who pay big property taxes need to know more about this deal!

      1. At our hospital, right here in Brenham, there is NO cardiologist, NO pulmonologist, NO cardiothoracic team! This was all stated in the article! I have been to OUR hospital multiple times for those very issues and found I had to be transported elsewhere! I guarantee, if you or lived one needs services from one of these specialties-you will be glad that the helicopter is available for quick transport!

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