Boston transport service had busiest year in 2021, on pace to break record in 2022

The pandemic contributed to the call volume increase, but not all of it is from COVID-19, said MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes


Rick Sobey
Boston Herald

BOSTON — Boston MedFlight, coming off its busiest year in history, is on track to set another record high for critical care medical transports as many patients have delayed treatment during the pandemic.

The nonprofit’s teams moved more than 5,600 patients by helicopter, plane and ground ambulance during its fiscal year 2021, which ends on Sept. 30. That comes out to an average of more than 15 patients every 24 hours.

The nonprofit’s crews have transported more than 5,600 patients by helicopter, plane and ground ambulance during its fiscal year 2021, which ends on Sept. 30.
The nonprofit’s crews have transported more than 5,600 patients by helicopter, plane and ground ambulance during its fiscal year 2021, which ends on Sept. 30. (Boston MedFlight)

Last year was a 19% jump over fiscal year 2019 from before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Boston MedFlight has cared for more than 2,000 critically ill COVID patients.

The virus contributed to 2021 being the busiest year ever, but “it’s not the whole story,” said Boston MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes.

“What we’re seeing unfortunately during the pandemic is many patients who have delayed their care,” Hughes added. “Many patients with chronic illnesses didn’t want to go to the doctor’s office, maybe pushed off surgery, and now they’re presenting sicker than they would have in previous years.”

The busy trend has continued this year, as Boston MedFlight is transporting more patients per day than throughout last year.

“If it keeps going at this pace, we’ll set another record in 2022,” Hughes said.

The health care system across the region has been understaffed during the last two challenging years.

“We’re able to move patients around the system to make sure no one hospital is overwhelmed,” Hughes said.

Boston MedFlight recently provided critical care medical transport to its 90,000th patient since the organization’s founding in 1985.

Moving forward, the nonprofit will soon add a jet to its existing fleet of critical care transport vehicles — which includes five twin-engine H145 helicopters and eight ambulances. Boston MedFlight will be buying and renovating a medically configured Cessna Citation CJ4 jet airplane to transport critically ill or injured patients.

“We’ll be able to travel longer distances and serve farther patients,” Hughes said. “We’ll be able to provide a lot more reach for our services.”

The organization partners with a consortium of Boston-area hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts Medical Center.

The nonprofit cares for patients without regard for their insurance status or ability to pay. Last year, Boston MedFlight provided more than $7.2 million in free and unreimbursed care to patients with little or no insurance.

Boston MedFlight seeks donations to support its nonprofit mission. For more information or to donate, visit www.cgiving.org/donate/BMFGiving.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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