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Air Methods moves helicopter base to Conyers from Covington
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Air Methods, the world's largest air medical provider, moved its Covington helicopter base to Conyers July 12 to save money and increase efficiency.

Benny Atkins, chief operating officer of National EMS, the 911 contracted ambulance service for Rockdale County, said he was glad to have the helicopters back in Conyers. They had been stationed there seven months ago before being moved to Covington when Air Methods and Rescue Air merged.

"We're excited that it's back in Conyers. It helps us with our trauma patients to get swiftly back," Atkins said, adding that there is a "golden hour" from the time of injury to get the patient into the operating room.

Area Business Manager Chad Black said the switch to the Conyers base, which is eight miles away from the Covington base, will not significantly affect the service to Newton 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, our about a 20-minute helicopter flight. The helicopters are called out by emergency responders or hospital officials when those personnel determine a case is 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.

Atkins explained the transportation services can also use "We also utilize the facility here. If it's faster to bring the patient to the helicopter instead of shutting down roads, whatever's in the best interest for the patient."

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 reaccredidation 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 4 nurses, 4 medics, 4 pilots and 1 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 patients' insurance providers for the cost of transport and in-route care.