Business feature: AeroCare calls Clovis home

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Billy Vinson is a paramedic with Covenant Health Systems which operates the AeroCare helicopter. AeroCare was recently reassigned to Clovis.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

After months of being moved around and prolonged response times, AeroCare has found a home in Clovis.

Under a lease agreement with Blue Sky Aviation, AeroCare now has a base of operations housed in a hangar at the Clovis Municipal Airport and is able to provide Clovis and surrounding areas 24-hour coverage, according to flight paramedic Stan Mixon.

AeroCare transports emergency medical patients to Lubbock and Amarillo hospitals.

In recent months, the AeroCare helicopter was based by day in a field near Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center, then moved to Roosevelt General Hospital and finally returned to Lubbock in March, where its parent company Covenant Medical Systems is located, Mixon said.

“We were bouncing around here for probably six months to a year. As of right now, we’re to stay here — we got a new home,” Mixon said.

Mixon said crews are comfortable and happy to have a local base complete with sleeping and eating accommodations, which they began occupying in mid-June.

Creating a Clovis base, Mixon said, cuts at least 45 minutes out of the transfer process.

“Clovis never did lose helicopter service,” Mixon said. “They just lost us from the area (because) we had to come from the Lubbock airport… In theory, (now) we can be at the patient’s bedside in a 10 minute period.

“Or if you have a trauma patient that’s involved in a wreck, we can go straight to the scene… It may be an hour, hour and a half and they can be at an operating room receiving trauma (care).”

Mixon said AeroCare in Clovis averages 35 to 55 transfer flights a month, some of which are trauma but the majority of which are medical emergencies such as heart attacks, kidney failure or renal failure.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have AeroCare have a full time crew stationed in Clovis. We’re very pleased with their commitment to our community,” Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Hoyt Skabelund said.

During the period the crew was stationed out of Lubbock, Skabelund said there were no problems with the added flight times but said anytime the time it takes to get a patient the care they need can be reduced, it is better for the patient.

The Clovis crews serve approximately a 150-mile radius which includes Curry, Roosevelt, Quay and De Baca counties and other areas as needed.

Featuring twin engines, the MD 902 helicopter flies at about 145 mph, allowing a patient to be transported to Lubbock in 35 minutes, officials said previously.

Crew members hail from throughout eastern New Mexico, western Texas and even Colorado, Mixon said.

Each flight has a pilot, paramedic and flight nurse onboard.

Mixon described AeroCare as a flying emergency room that caries more than 50 types of drugs and can perform a variety of emergency procedures.