TriState CareFlight’s Future Uncertain at SVH

Hospital Issues RFP for Services, Citing Noise Concerns


By Carlos Padilla


Noise. It’s been an issue for a number of neighbors of Sierra Vista Hospital for some time. And the noise this vocal minority has made regarding the loud, sleep-disrupting sounds from helicopters has resonated with Sierra Vista Hospital CEO Michael Zimmerman.

Recently, Zimmerman sat down with The Herald to discuss a number of concerns voiced by the community to this newspaper, and addressed them, including the status of TriState CareFlight.

Zimmerman confirmed that a Request for Proposals (RFP) had been issued by the local hospital for air medical services.

Afterhours noise emanating from TriState CareFlight helicopters for “non-emergency operations” prompted the decision to issue the RFP, according to Zimmerman.

Zimmerman spoke to the importance of being a good neighbor to those who reside near Sierra Vista Hospital, adding that – to that end – an agreement was broached between the hospital and TriState CareFlight, limiting the hours of maintenance work on the medical helicopters.

There were improvements made at first, Zimmerman told The Herald, adding that recently there has been some “backsliding,” with TriState CareFlight not meeting expectations set by the hospital. “Tough steps were needed,” Zimmerman stated.

“We are in the process of re-interviewing potential service providers,” he said.

“In the past, SVH’s requirements were minimal,” said Zimmerman, adding that the hospital’s expectations have changed due to concerns expressed by the community, namely neighbors living in the shadow of the hospital.

The evolution of the expectations addressed with the medical helicopter company include the departures and approaches over the homes located south of Ninth Street when departing from or landing at the hospital’s helipad. The agreed upon goal to avoid flying over residences located in that direction of the hospital whenever possible – due to wind direction – have admittedly been largely accomplished.

At issue, however, is the required maintenance work on the helicopters recently taking place between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. – which is outside of the agreed upon window the hospital requested from TriState CareFlight.

A source, who spoke to The Herald on condition of confidentiality, stated that the helicopter company’s ownership proscribed the required maintenance work to take place overnight – despite the agreement with the hospital.

Zimmerman stated that the contract will be redone and the RFP process will allow several air medical companies to present the benefits of their services – no doubt with the importance of reduced noise playing a part in the process.

Zimmerman confirmed that there exists no financial terms between the local hospital and TriState CareFlight.

“We may keep TriState or we may go with one of the other operators,” Zimmerman stated, adding that those include major operators such as PHi and Air Methods as well as a handful of smaller, unnamed providers.

Zimmerman concluded that the hospital is looking for the best combination of safety, and understanding and acceptance of Sierra Vista Hospital’s relationship with the community.

There reportedly will not be a disruption is aeromedical service locally.

When news of this development was first posted to The Herald’s Facebook page, the vast majority of members’ posts were in support of TriState CareFlight remaining as the air medical provider locally.


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