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Emergency helicopter takes flight at Prisma Laurens

RIGHT CARE – Prisma Health Laurens Hospital CEO Justin Benfield said the new LifeNet 7 helicopter based here ensures patients are getting the right care and the right place at the right time. Photo-Judith Brown

Laurens County, South Carolina – Since the new health care service opened in March, a staff of experienced flight nurses, pilots and paramedics are based every day and every hour at Prisma Laurens County Hospital, ready for the time when physicians decide the best option for a patient is transport to a larger hospital.

LifeNet 7, under the parent company,  Air Methods, has partnered with Prisma Health and placed one of its EC 130 T2 medical transport helicopters at Laurens County Hospital.
“We’ve had a partnership with Prisma Health for the last couple of years and have already brought two aircraft into South Carolina as part of this partnership,” said Air Methods Southeast Regional Account Executive Patrick Lamontagne. “This is the third in an expansion to really increase the coverage of medical care and expedite transport for patients in Laurens County and surrounding areas.”

Air Methods and LifeNet 7 also has a helicopter based at a fourth hospital in the state which is not affiliated with Prisma.

“As a native South Carolinian I can greatly appreciate the rurality of our state,” said Prisma Health Laurens CEO Justin Benfield. “As a health care professional and having experience in both settings, metropolitan and rural, I also appreciate the challenges experienced by rural and community hospitals across the nation with regard to accessing sub-specialized care. The challenges of recruitment and sustainability of those services in rural areas is real.”

It’s why the new larger and safer helicopter, available for any patient at Prisma Health Laurens Hospital, will save lives, he said.
“Having this LifeNet 7 Laurens aircraft locally, our community now has more rapid access to getting the patients the right care at the right place at the right time,” Benfield said.
Amber Laney, the hospital’s chief physician and emergency medicine physician, sees the addition of the helicopter here as a crucial step in preventing disabilities which can result when proper treatment is delayed for trauma, heart attack and stroke victims.
“We’ve recently received our primary stroke center certification,” Laney said, “and this team will be a tremendous addition to that stroke care continuum.”
Not only is this particular helicopter among the safest for health care transport, but it’s also larger and provides more space for the medical staff to assist patients.
“It’s much roomier,” said Kel Monteruil, a staff nurse with more than 20 years of medical flight experience and now based at Laurens. “It’s probably one and a half times wider than others I’ve worked in.”

When they are not transporting patients, flight staff will be continuing with training and maintenance to keep the traveling medical facility ready.

Air Methods’ recent development of a strong patient advocacy program, as well as Congress’ No Surprises Act (NSA) legislation which was implemented in January 2022, is easing stress over air transport bills once patients are recovering from trauma or severe medical issues.
“Publicity in the past stimulated us to change our billing practices over the past five years,” Lamontagne said, citing stories of patients facing financial ruin just to pay their air transport bills.
Rather than requiring memberships, Air Methods developed patient advocacy programs to help patients through the billing process, no matter what their insurance levels were. It has now  networked with three of the largest health insurance providers to ease the burden financially.

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