Helipad construction under way this month
The Lake Tahoe Airport could soon be host to an air ambulance service.
“It’s simply another resource to provide prehospital service,” said Brian Schafer, Lake Valley Fire Chief. “We’re often isolated. Often patients who have suffered serious trauma need services at a trauma hospital.”
California Shock Trauma Air Rescue, or CALSTAR, an air ambulance service headquartered in Hayward, is hoping to have one helicopter stationed at the Lake Tahoe Airport at all times. CALSTAR has served the basin in the past from its Auburn, Calif., location.
“By being in the basin, we are right at the location were the patients are going to need us whether on the ski slopes or on the highway,” said Tom Goff, program director for CALSTAR.
Now air ambulances fly in from Minden, Reno and Sacramento to take trauma patients to hospitals in Reno, Sacramento or even San Francisco.
CalTahoe, which comprises the city of South Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley Fire Protection District and the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, recently won the ambulance contract with El Dorado County to service the Eastern Slope. While it finalizes contract negotiations with the county, CalTahoe is also working on an agreement with CALSTAR to provide air ambulance service in the basin.
“We were approached by (CalTahoe) sometime ago, because they thought if they had a helicopter based in the basin, it would give really good quality patient service,” Goff said.
The agreement will not preclude the use of other air ambulance services such as Care Flight, which handles about 90 percent of the air ambulance calls in the basin, said Rich Belli, director of facilities for Barton Memorial Hospital. Care Flight deploys air ambulances from Minden and Reno.
Barton will have no contract with the air ambulance service, and emergency dispatchers will continue to call whatever service can transport patients the quickest.
“It is our hope that we can continue to work cooperatively with everybody we have worked with in the past, and that certainly includes Care Flight,” Schafer said.
CalTahoe is expected to begin ambulance service Sept. 1, but the start date for CALSTAR is uncertain at this time as negotiations between the two agencies continue.
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