COLONA, Illinois — COVID-19 patients in critical need near the Quad Cities are being transported to hospitals as far as Chicago and West Des Moines.
MedForce, the emergency helicopter service out of Colona, recently purchased three new $7.1-million choppers and CEO, Kevin Takacs, says the timing was perfect.
"I don't think you can fly a safer aircraft than what these are," Takacs says. "We are really having difficulty at times finding critical care beds for some of these patients."
The new choppers are complete with an autopilot setting and cockpit screens that look similar to an iPad.
MedForce has had to expand their radius and has taken COVID-19 patients to hospitals in Chicago three times in the last two weeks.
"We do a screening before every call," Takacs explains. "Usually by the time we get there we know whether we have a positive or negative test."
"It was kind of strange because the first wave of COVID we slowed way down. And you know all your trauma, all your neuro patients, all your cardiac patients, for some reason they all went away."
Takacs says since the second surge it's been busy. They've transported their typical patients plus almost 80 COVID-19 patients this summer, which takes special cleaning.
"We kind of slow down the process a little bit to make sure we ourselves are covered and the facility who is requesting is also accepting those patients is covered," explains MedForce medic, Michael Stefko.
Stefko says the decontamination process between each flight can take 20 minutes to an hour depending on how severe the patient's illness was.
"So whenever we get back the entire aircraft gets scrubbed clean. We have a fogger that will come in and also clean the aircraft as well."
MedForce averages about three flights a day from their Colona location and 1.5 from their Burlington hub.