Air Medical Controversy in Texas
EMS Units Bypassed Nearest Helicopters: Physician Says Ties to a Firm Don't Influence Agencies' Decisions
What happened to Bridges that night was part of a pattern repeated more than two dozen times in the last two years in the area: EMS crews did not call the closest helicopter ambulance service.
In each incident, the EMS unit on the ground and PHI shared the same medical director, Roy Yamada.
Yamada, a Fort Worth physician, works as director of emergency medicine for Midlothian and in a similar role for nine other area EMS departments, most in Tarrant County. He is also PHI’s North Texas medical director, a position for which he has apparently been paid almost $200,000 in 2 1/2 years.
Such ties are becoming increasingly common in the competitive air ambulance industry, in which people who oversee local EMS agencies also work for air medical providers.
But these alliances, critics say, can lead to delays in hospital care for critically injured patients as well as unnecessary helicopter flights that can cost patients as much as $10,000 when ground transport would be sufficient.