Boston Medflight, itself in need, flies in for fundraiser
Usually, when helicopter pilot John Bevilaqua or jet pilot Derek Gregory come to Martha's Vineyard, it's not for hors d'oeuvres in a swank harborfront setting. Usually when they fly here, it is literally a matter of life and death. They are two of the pilots from Medflight Boston who transport patients by air from the Island to hospitals in Boston when patients need urgent medical care unavailable at Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
But there they were, making a striking impression in blue flight suits, rubbing elbows with blue blazers and sampling delectables at a reception hosted by Sail Martha's Vineyard this past Saturday. The event served as a combination fundraiser and "get to know us" reception for Boston Medflight.
"Many people on the Island know about us," said Dr. Susanne Wedel, chief executive officer and medical director of Boston Medlfight, "because they've had loved ones, or they personally have been transported. They've heard that they call and we come, but what's probably not known about Medflight is we're not-for-profit."
The organization, formed by a consortium of six large teaching hospitals in Boston, transports about 3,200 patients each year, more than 200 of them from Martha's Vineyard. "We have a fabulous relationship with Martha's Vineyard Hospital," said Dr. Wedel. "I can't say enough about what they do with the resources that they have. The bottom line is, all hospitals can't be all things to all people and they know what they can't do. They know how to get patients the resources that they need, and we're that linkage."
Most of Medflight's $22 million budget comes from reimbursement by insurance companies, but Boston Medflight provides approximately $2.5 million worth of unreimbursed care to people who don't have insurance, or don't have coverage for air transport.
"We transport patients regardless of their ability to pay," said Dr. Wedel. "We don't ever ask any questions about are they insured. Honestly most of our patients aren't in a situation they can even tell you."
Saturday's fundraiser helped cover the cost of medical flights for people who are unable to pay. Among those helping to raise money under an elegantly appointed tent on the Vineyard Haven waterfront were West Chop neighbors Rose Styron and Mike Wallace. Ms. Styron is a poet, human rights activist, and widow of the author William Styron. Mr. Wallace is retired from a distinguished career in journalism, much of it as a correspondent for the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.
Photos by Steve Myrick
They were among nearly 100 guests who turned out to support Medflight, and meet some of the organization's personnel.
Mr. Gregory flies Medflight's only fixed wing aircraft, a Citation II jet with a top speed of 400 miles per hour and a range of 1,200 miles.
During a 30-year career building a moving and storage company, Mr. Gregory often volunteered his piloting skills for "angel flights," a medical transport service that utilizes corporate aircraft when they are not being used by company executives. Six years ago he began flying for Medflight full time, from the organization's headquarters in Bedford. He deflects the praise for his efforts.
"We're just the transport," said Mr. Gregory. "The medical crews are amazing, with adrenaline pumping, watching them do their jobs is fascinating."
Mr. Bevilaqua, a former Coast Guard pilot, is based in Plymouth, about a 15-minute flight to the Vineyard in his BK 117 C1 helicopter.
"That's a quick flight," said Mr. Bevilaqua. "There's no terrain or anything to worry about. The weather is a little bit unpredictable. Occasionally we have to turn around because the fog has come in."
Construction at Martha's Vineyard Hospital has thrown a bit of a twist into his usual flight plan. For the past ten months he has been landing at the airport. He is looking forward to getting back into his usual routine of touching down on the hospital landing pad.
"It saves time," said Mr. Bevilaqua. "But if the weather's bad, we can't utilize that."
Sandy Weedon, director of development for Medflight, said donations to the non-profit organization are tax-deductible. He said anyone who wishes to contribute can send donations to Boston Medflight, Hanscom Air Force Base, Robin Street, Hangar 1727, Bedford, MA 01730. More information about donations is available at Medflight's web site: www.bostonmedflight.org