Staff members for AirCare 4 in Greenwood include, from left, registered nurse Kevin King, critical care paramedic Jack Hourguettes and pilot Keith Bailey.
Staff members for AirCare 4 in Greenwood include, from left, registered nurse Kevin King, critical care paramedic Jack Hourguettes and pilot Keith Bailey.
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AirCare expansion lands at Greenwood base

Published on Thursday, October 12, 2017

By: Ruth Cummins

AirCare 4, the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s newest medical helicopter, is taking flight from a new base at the Greenwood-Leflore Airport.

It’s the latest expansion for AirCare, the advanced medical helicopter transport that brings the intensive care unit capabilities of an academic medical center to critically ill patients of all ages and backgrounds in every corner of Mississippi. It allows more Mississippians to remain in the state for tertiary, or highly specialized, care.

Six pilots and eight clinical employees – nurses, nurse paramedics and critical-care paramedics – began flying patients Oct. 1. The expansion into Greenwood brings AirCare’s bases to four. Others are in Meridian, Columbus and Jackson.

Residents can get a closer look when AirCare 4 hosts an open house from 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 26 at the airport, 508 Airport Road off Highway 82.


Greenwood and its Delta region “are very rural and agricultural,” said Donna Norris, clinical director of UMMC-based Mississippi Med-Com, the state-of-the-art communications center that links statewide emergency response agencies, first responders and hospitals. “There are high morbidity factors that affect the area, including hypertension and low birth weight infants.

“This further places UMMC’s resources in the community,” she said. “We selected Greenwood so that we can better support our health care system in Grenada and Lexington, in addition to our community care clinic in Belzoni.”

Allan Hammons, president of Hammons & Associates in Greenwood, said he and Dr. Damon Darsey brainstormed on expanding AirCare’s bases to Greenwood. Darsey is assistant professor of emergency medicine and medical director of UMMC’s Mississippi Center for Emergency Services.

“The Greenwood airport has distinct advantages, not just for UMMC, but for the hospital in Greenwood,” said Hammons, leader of a marketing and advertising firm and a board member of the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation.

With Hammons’ support and encouragement, the idea became reality. “We had a building at the airport that would work nicely,” Hammons said of an old military base with 55-60 acres of concrete for aircraft to use. “It’s immediately adjacent to the control towers. They can be out the door and into the helicopter in a few seconds.”

AirCare 4, the newest addition to the AirCare medical helicopter transport, is based in Greenwood.
AirCare 4, the newest addition to the AirCare medical helicopter transport fleet, is based in Greenwood.

AirCare’s presence in Greenwood is a boon to the medical community and the patients served, said Dodie McElmurray, chief operating officer at Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

“Both the administration and the medical staff here at Greenwood Leflore Hospital are excited about the new AirCare location, and we look forward to the new partnership moving forward,” she said.

AirCare is the only medical helicopter transport in Mississippi that flies adults, children and infants. AirCare has the state’s only neonatal-trained air transport team, flying the most acutely ill newborns to the Medical Center for intensive care. It’s the only program utilizing isolettes for premature and ill infants and the sole program that carries whole blood, liquid plasma and an ultrasound.

Portrait of Jonathan Wilson

The new base, provides a natural expansion into the Mississippi Delta, said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, chief administrative officer at the Medical Center.

“We are proud to continue AirCare’s longstanding commitment to excellence in safety, patient care, education and research,” he said. “By working alongside of our 911, public safety, EMS and hospital colleagues throughout the region, this vital collaboration will allow us to bring the advanced, lifesaving care of an academic medical center to patients when and where it is needed most.”

AirCare requires all of its paramedics to earn critical-care paramedic certification, meaning they can perform potentially life-saving procedures that nurses or paramedics without the certification cannot. Critical-care paramedics can give medications that a regular paramedic can’t administer, such as Kcentra, a drug used to reverse the effects of blood thinners.

Like AirCare 1, 2 and 3, AirCare 4 is equipped with a sophisticated weather radar and autopilot system, allowing it to fly in conditions that would keep other helicopters grounded.

AirCare receives no state funds and is entirely self-supporting. AirCare is a covered service with insurance providers and follows UMMC financial assistance practices.  If a patient has no insurance, UMMC will work with them to come up with a payment plan they can handle.

“When you’re in a crisis situation and your health, or your life, is in danger, this could be the difference in survival and not surviving,” Hammons said. “We’re happy to have them, and we look forward to working with UMMC and improving positive outcomes for patients.”