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Posted: July 15, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Air Methods moves helicopter base to Conyers

Air Methods, the world’s largest air medical provider, moved its Covington helicopter base to Conyers Sunday to save money and increase efficiency.

Area Business Manager Chad Black said the switch to the Conyers base, which is 8 miles away from the Covington base, will not significantly affect the service to Covington residents, resulting in approximately a four-minute delay of service in most cases.

Air Methods has six bases in the Atlanta area, each covering about a 30-40 mile range, or about a 20-minute helicopter flight. The helicopters are called out by emergency responders or hospital officials when they determine a case life-threatening, or when a patient needs treatment that can’t be provided at a local hospital.

"They utilize us to facilitate that transport more rapidly, especially with the traffic in the Atlanta area," Black said.

He said the company never transported patients to Newton Medical Center but often flies out from the center to transport patients to cardiac, neurological or pediatric facilities in Atlanta.

Air Methods is moving from its Covington base, located at Covington Municipal Airport, because the company recently purchased Rescue Air, which had a base in Conyers. After the purchase, Air Methods had 11 total bases in the Atlanta; they determined the area could only support six currently.

As part of the company’s restructuring plan they decided to keep the Conyers base open, because the living and working quarters for the crews were better at the Conyers base. Black said the company would have to invest more money to upgrade the Covington base, in order to meet reaccrediting standards, which didn’t make financial sense with the Conyers base so close by.

Black said the living quarters are very important for the company’s personnel, because of their 24-hour-on, 72-hour-off schedule. Black said each base has four nurses, four medics, four pilots and one mechanic; the company has around 100 employees in Georgia. The nurses and medics provide care to patients en route to hospitals.

Air Methods charges individual patient’s insurance providers for the cost of transport and in-route care.

City Manager Steve Horton said Regional Director Dean Dow assured him that the company was moving purely for financial reasons, not because of the construction at the airport. The company’s helicopters would have been allowed continue to operate at the airport during construction.

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