LifeFlight funding request tabled

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A funding request from the LifeFlight Foundation has the Bridgton Budget Committee wondering what is a fair amount for the town to provide?

Yes, Bridgton is the home to Bridgton Hospital. And yes, LifeFlight, which provides helicopter transport in life-threatening injury cases, has made a great many transports to and from that hospital over the years. But is it fair to ask Bridgton taxpayers to subsidize those trips, when only a fraction of those transported are likely Bridgton residents?

In its request sent out in December to all of Maine’s towns and cities, LifeFlight provided a list of transports they’ve provided in each town or city since its inception in 1998. The list showed 687 transports in Bridgton over the past 15 years — one of the highest numbers in the state. Bangor had the highest number of transports, at 1,184. Also running high numbers were Rockport, Rumford ad Farmington, all hospital towns like Bridgton.

LifeFlight did not list a specific amount they were requesting from Bridgton, but noted that 23 towns in Maine have formerly supported LifeFlight over the years, in amounts ranging from $100 to $2,000. The nonprofit foundation also noted that it is the lowest cost medical air transport carrier in the nation, and that it transports anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

At their Jan. 15 meeting, Budget Committee member Bill Vincent said the issue deserves more investigation, and the committee agreed to table the request. Vincent said he suspects many patients transported from Bridgton were from surrounding towns, and wanted to know the actual numbers of Bridgton residents that have benefitted from the program.

In a call to LifeFlight Tuesday, Marketing Manager Melissa Arndt agreed that it would have been more useful to towns to know the numbers of residents served, and that Vincent’s point was a valid one. Vincent wondered whether other towns in the area would contribute, but other committee members felt the chances for that weren’t likely.

In its letter, LifeFlight stated, “We bring the hospital to people in communities all around Maine,” by providing “a flying emergency room with highly-trained nurses, paramedics and emergency-room-grade equipment on board.” Charity care totals over 30 percent of its flights, or $1.5 million in lost revenue yearly. Seventy percent of LifeFlight’s flights are transports from community hospitals to specialized care.

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