The angel of life |

The angel of life

Steve Ranson
Preparing to cut the ribbon signaling Care Flight's presence in Churchill County is Jim Gubbels, president and CEO of REMSA, Banner Churchill CEO Hoyt Skabelund, center, and Bob Erickson, Fallon mayor pro-tem.
Joseph Vincent |

The sleek blue helicopter glistened under the bright Nevada sun with its nose pointed westward.

Local officials, dignitaries and members of the medical community gathered in front of the sleek frame, talking about the vast improvement of emergency care now offered in Churchill County.

Wednesday marked a traditional ribbon cutting for Care Flight’s fourth home-base operation, which began nearly two weeks ago when the first Care Flight helicopter — “an angel of life” — flew into Fallon to provide continuous service covering a wide swath of remote central Nevada.

“This is a big improvement for the community to have Care Flight here,” said Bob Erickson, mayor pro-tem, as people lined up to officially welcome the medical flight service to the Lahontan Valley. “Care Flight is not only an addition to our community but also to the (US Highway) 50 corridor to Austin, Eureka and Ely.”

He said Mayor Ken Tedford, who had a prior engagement, has been a big advocate for having Care Fight establish a home base at Banner Churchill.

Jim Gubbels, president and CEO of REMSA, the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority in Reno, was equally happy about Care Flight’s new home base.

“This partnership with Banner Churchill Community Hospital and your community is very important to us,” Gubbels said.

He said the Care Flight crew and their helicopter function like a mobile emergency room to treat critically injured or ill patients and to whisk them away to a medical faculty for care.

“I believe Banner and Care Flight have the same mission … put the patient and community first,” he added.

Those assembled all agree that the seven-day-a-week stationing of Care Flight in Fallon has already become an integral part of the local health care system.

“This will enable us to continue our care through our ER (emergency room). We know Care Flight is quality,” said Hoyt Skabelund, Banner Churchill Community Hospital’s CEO. “It will be an investment to see more patients here.”

Currently, Matt Brown, operations supervisor for Care Flight, said the plan calls for the basing of a helicopter at Banner Churchill for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Eventually, he said a helicopter will be assigned to Fallon 24 hours a day. Brown said the goal at each one of the bases is to serve a radius of about 150 miles because of fuel use. Other areas served are Carson Valley Medical Center in Douglas County, Truckee airport and Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.

Brown said medical flights out of Fallon have been steady. One week ago a Care Flight helicopter transported a seriously injured motorcyclist from a wreck on U.S. Highway 50 west of Fallon to Renown Regional Medical Center.

“Everything is running smoothly, the way it’s supposed to be,” Brown said.

Mike Berney and Lynn Pearce, local members of the hospital’s advisory board, said the medical attention to patients has improved tremendously during the past 30 years.

“It’s huge for our community, especially for the outlying area,” said Berney, adding the quick response to a scene is good for patient care. “We know how important it is to be here. They are a great group to work with … great people.”

Pearce added Care Flight is good for shaving time off when transporting an injured or ill person to the hospital.

“Care Flight, it’s great,” said Natalie Parrish, executive director of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce. “This makes health care more efficient. We will see a huge benefit.”

Besides the medical services provided by Care Flight, Parrish also sees other benefits.

“Banner is moving forward,” she explained. “We’ll see an increase in our community involvement and relations, and they will be playing a big part in our community.