Healthnet and WVU Medicine unveil new helicopter in ribbon-cutting ceremony

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Look in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane. No, it’s Healthnet Aeromedical Services’ new more than $7 million helicopter.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 4, Healthnet Aeromedical Services unveiled and dedicated its new helicopter in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new Airbus EC145e helicopter will be based in Morgantown and support WVU Medicine hospitals, according to President and CEO Clinton Burley. He said it has the latest aviation and clinical technology and will serve as a state-of-the-art intensive care unit.

“This new aircraft will be serving Northern West Virginia and is truly a lifesaver,” Burley said. “It greatly increases our capabilities for Healthnet Aeromedical Services across northern West Virginia. And with flight volumes continuing to increase and the growth of WVU medicine, it’s critically important that we have these large, heavy assets at the ready. It saves lives.”

The ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was well attended, with more than a dozen people. One of the speakers during the event, alongside WVU President Gordon Gee and Burley, was WVU Health System President and CEO Albert Wright.

Wright said he was “excited” to be there and for all the promise the new helicopter brings to West Virginians.

“We are the academic medical center, the Land Grant University of the State of West Virginia, and we see patients from all over the state, and we see the most critically ill patients,” Wright said. “And as a rural state, you know, we’ve got to in an emergency — we’ve got to be able to get patients to us here in Morgantown very quickly and very safely. And it’s important our helicopter fleet that we use throughout the state has to be able to get to wherever patients are at and bring them safely with that ambulance team to Morgantown.” 

Burley also spoke about how this new helicopter will help ambulatory services overcome the rugged nature of the Mountain State.

“One of the beauties of our state is its ruggedness, but that’s also one of the challenges when it comes to delivering healthcare,” Burley said. “It takes too long to get from one place to another. For 35 years, the fleet of Healthnet Aeromedical Services, helicopters, and the crews that fly aboard those aircraft have brought that time down to where patients can get where they need to go in the right amount of time. And patients live because of it.”

The more than $7 million price tag of the helicopter may come as a shock to some, but Burley and Wright said it’s worth it.

Having a helicopter ambulance service in the region and across the state is “critically important”, Burley said. That is why Healthnet felt comfortable in making such a large investment in the new helicopter.

But that is not the only investment that the company is making in itself.

Over the past year, Burley said, Healthnet has been “fortunate enough” to invest more than $15 million in helicopter upgrades and acquiring the new aircraft. Lives are saved every day, the chief executive said because the company combines the speed of a helicopter with an “expert medical crew”.

For his part, Wright said he could not agree more. The millions of dollars spent, he said, will directly benefit West Virginians and save lives.

“This is over a $7 million investment, but we’re happy to make it because that’s what we do, so it’s a great day to be here,” Wright said. “It’s a great day to be a Mountaineer. It’s a great day for patients. We hope that you’re never going to need this helicopter, but if you do, we’re going to be there.” 

About HealthNet Aeromedical Services:

HealthNet Aeromedical Services, Inc. is headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia, and is a not-for-profit critical care transport system cooperatively owned and operated by Cabell Huntington Hospital, Charleston Area Medical Center, and WVU Medicine. The program operates eight helicopter bases in West Virginia and one in Kentucky and has safely transported over 90,000 patients since beginning operations in 1986.

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