Care Flight begins new Fallon-based operations |

Care Flight begins new Fallon-based operations

Steve Ranson
A Care Flight helicopter makes a ceremonial landing at Banner Churchill Community Hospital on Monday. Care Flight has made Banner Churchill its fourth home base to serve the residents of central Nevada more effectively.

Care Flight has taken a big step in not only serving Churchill County better but also extending its reach as far east as Eureka.

A Care Flight helicopter touched town shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday at the hospital’s new helipad, signaling the beginning of its newest base, CF-4.

“For Churchill County, it’s obviously a lot closer, and now we have extended our reach to central Nevada,” said Matt Brown, operations supervisorfor Care Flight.

Currently, he said the plan is to base a helicopter at Banner Churchill for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Eventually, plans call for a helicopter to be assigned to Fallon 24 hours a day.

Brown said he recently spent three days on the road traveling to Austin and Eureka and talking to residents about Care Flight’s expanded service.

“They’re excited to have the service to them,” Brown said.

According to a statement from Care Flight, “this specialized critical care air ambulance will support and assist the area’s hospital, critical care paramedics, fire department and law enforcement with critically ill or injured patients in the rural areas.”

M. Dorsey-Hirt, Care Flight’s medical supervisor, said having a base in Churchill County will also make the transfer out of the emergency room much faster when the patient requires further medical assistance in Reno.

Brown and Dorsey-Hirt will each come out to Fallon once a week to ensure the operation is performing as planned with Banner Churchill. Brown said the plan to implement a Care Flight base at the hospital was in the planning stages for months.

“It’s been in the works for a while,” Brown said, “but we’re happy with the relationship (with Banner).”

Brown said the goal at each one of the bases is to serve a radius of about 150 miles because of fuel use. The other areas served are Carson Valley Medical Center in Douglas County, Truckee airport and Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.

Banner Churchill CEO Hoyt Skabelund said it’s exciting for the medical community to be a part of the expanded services to Churchill County and central Nevada.

“There will be lives saved because of the proximity of Care Flight’s base,” Skabelund said, adding that each medical flight will provide excellent patient care.

Skabelund, who previously served as a CEO at three other hospitals, said this is a big day for both Banner Churchill and Care Flight, and he looks forward to when the service expands to 24/7. One of the medical emergencies that will benefit from Care Flight being based in Fallon, said Skabelund, is the response in assisting heart attack victims and transporting them to Reno.

“There will be a benefit all the way around,” Skabelund said. “We’re excited to have a partner like Care Flight.”

Skabelund confirmed what Brown said about the months of planning for a Care Flight base at Fallon.

“This has been a lengthy process, but the hospital’s advisory board has been a strong advocate all the way,” he said.

Another strong advocate is Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford.

“I think it is wonderful that Care Flight, in conjunction with Banner Churchill Hospital, is expanding its base services to Fallon,” Tedford said. “As mayor, I believe it is adding another layer of health care to our community, which can only further improve the quality of life for our citizens. I know those of us on the Board of Banner Churchill Community Hospital are excited about the small part we played in this coming together.”

Besides ferrying patients to and from the hospital, Brown said Care Flight is also an active participant with various federal, state and local agencies in disaster planning. For example, Care Flight has taken part in both Churchill County and Naval Air Station Fallon drills.

“From a Navy training stand point, the base’s ability to integrate with local agencies makes us stronger and our continuing training exercises with local law enforcement, government agencies, medical providers and emergency services makes our training more realistic and better suited to the real thing,” said NAS Fallon spokesman Zip Upham.

For example, many agencies including Care Flight participated in a community-wide exercise in early May 2011 that dealt with a major disaster. Less than two months later, a big rig actually plowed into an Amtrak passenger train north of Fallon, causing first-responders to wheel into action and begin their life-saving missions.