By Dave Miller

Killeen Daily Herald

Responding to a frantic plea for help, Scott & White Memorial Hospital has dispatched one of its medical helicopters to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

StatAir 1 lifted off from Killeens Skylark Field late Tuesday afternoon, headed for the flooded Louisiana city.

Hours earlier, Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans had called the Temple hospital, requesting a helicopter to help transport patients. The New Orleans medical facility, surrounded by rising floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina, had experienced a fire, putting its patients at risk.

Theyre having serious problems with the facility, said Dave Phillips, director of Pre-Hospital Services at Scott & White, which oversees the two StatAir helicopters. Theyre evacuating everyone from the hospital. They told us, Were in big trouble. We have patients who are going to die, Phillips said.

Phillips described Tulane Medical Center as a big specialty-care hospital.

They have the sickest patients and its smack in the middle of downtown, the worst possible location, Phillips said, noting the entire city proper of New Orleans was in the process of evacuation because of inundation by floodwaters.

The only way to reach the hospital is by helicopter, landing on the roof, Phillips said. They had four transports waiting on us when our helicopter took off.

Scott & White spokeswoman Lisa Soule said the hospitals air and medical crews had been on standby for two days, awaiting a possible call from the Louisiana emergency operation center.

Weve been monitoring their situation, and it looked like they were going to be OK, but then things took a sudden downturn today, Phillips said.

Scott & White is sending a team of 11 to New Orleans to help with the medical evacuations. Phillips said the crew consists of three flight nurses, three flight medics, a mechanic and two pilots, so they can switch off. The hospital is also sending two basic EMTs with a ground transport truck.

The crew will be charged with transporting patients to Shreveport and Lafayette, La., as well as Houston. Phillips said Herrmann Hospital in Houston and San Antonio AirLife also are sending medical helicopters and crews to help out.

The Scott & White crew members will be in New Orleans until Saturday morning, when they return to Temple. At that point well send another group, if they need us, Phillips said.

Transporting patients such long distances is likely to cost $20,000 to $30,000 in fuel, not to mention the basic expense of operating a helicopter, Phillips said.

Right now were paying fuel costs, Phillips said. I told my boss this was going to be expensive, but he said, Thats OK. Its the right thing to do.

Contact Dave Miller at

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