Today, most people look up and see a helicopter in the sky, but have little or no understanding of all the components that make up the medical emergency system. In truth, the helicopter service is only as good as the support services that back it up; this is true in the community as well as in the hospital. There simply is not much point to having a flight program without developing expertise at all levels. Once a patient is brought back to the hospital, every service must work in concert all the way from supplies, housekeeping, dietary, dispatch, pilots, nurses, and medical specialists to meet all the needs of the patient. All services have to be provided 24 hours a day whether or not a medical emergency is in process. Maintaining these services is very costly simply because life threatening circumstances, by their very nature, are unpredictable. It simply costs more to intervene and save a life than it does to respond to routine matters of medical care.
The helicopter is only one aspect of the EMS system. No one must ever make little of the ground network of paramedics and emergency technicians, and firemen who are usually first on scene. It is their job to quickly assess the gravity of the situation, make critical decisions and do all that they can to preserve a viable patient. Ironically, the public’s first line of defense in a life threatening crisis is often a volunteer or a poorly paid ambulance employee. Fortunately, for those in need, these people are not in the business of saving lives for money. They are usually self-motivated, want to help others, or require a high degree of stimulation, and challenge to make them feel a vital part of being alive.