Sandoval defends use of Guard flight for woman
February 2, 2014
RENO — Gov. Brian Sandoval is defending his decision to allow the use of a Nevada Air National Guard aircraft to fly a critically ill woman to an Oregon hospital for life-saving treatment.
The request for the special flight on Dec. 28 came from Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, where the woman was a patient, Sandoval said. He said the Air Guard asked for his authorization as the state's commander in chief.
"It was presented to me as a life-or-death situation," Sandoval told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Sandoval declined to discuss the woman's illness or any other details about her condition, citing respect for patient privacy. He said neither he nor any of his staff are related to the woman or have any other connections to her.
A spokeswoman for the governor said he does not know the woman's identity. She could not get the treatment she needed in Northern Nevada, Sandoval said.
"So we had to take extraordinary measures to get her there," he said. "It was my understanding that that there are only two facilities in the United States that could treat her condition, and a hospital in Oregon was one of them."
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Ayse Cagla, communications manager for Renown, said the hospital had asked for help to move "a critically ill patient" out-of-state for care not available at Renown or anywhere else in Nevada.
"It was an extreme and unique circumstance with a very compressed timeline to save the patient's life," Cagla said in an email.
"The patient was transported to an out-of-state facility which could provide the life-saving treatment the patient required," she said. "Other available transport options were exhausted."
The woman was taken to a hospital in Portland but Cagla said the patient's family did not consent to the release of any further information.
Maj. Dennis Fournier, public affairs officer for the Nevada National Guard, said the use of a Guard aircraft to transport a civilian for a medical emergency is "very rare."
"In my 27 years in the Air Guard, this is the first time it has ever happened," Fournier said.
He said the cost of the flight is considered public information under federal law, but the Guard's legal counsel said it wouldn't be released without a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Sandoval said he does not know how much using a National Guard aircraft to transport the patient cost the state.
"I did think it was worth saving a life," he said.