BERLIN — When a Berlin child with a critical illness was flown to a Baltimore hospital last October, her parents did not know that 45-minute flight was the beginning of a nearly year-long journey including a battle with the private sector air ambulance service over exorbitant fees and a multi-pronged effort at reform.
Last Oct. 10, life changed quickly for Berlin residents Steve and Jayme Isett when the couple’s then-5-year-old daughter Sarah was flown from Atlantic General in Berlin to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in critical condition with acute renal failure. Sarah was taken to AGH when she complained of not feeling well and after a battery of tests on the child, it was determined she needed specialized care for a critical condition provided by only a handful of hospitals in the region.
In order for Sarah to receive immediate healthcare from a pediatric nephrologist, the emergency room doctor at AGH made arrangements with the private-sector Air Methods Corporation to fly the child via helicopter to Hopkins in Baltimore. Hopkins Hospital’s regular non-profit vendor was on another call and not available, so the AGH doctor made arrangements with Air Methods to transport Sarah to Baltimore in those critical, but potentially life-changing moments.
What the Isetts didn’t know in those critical moments is that the 45-minute helicopter flight from Berlin to Baltimore would cost them $55,000, or roughly the same amount as her entire three-week stay at Hopkins including the operating room and the intensive care unit.