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Sunday, November 16, 2003



[INSIDE HAWAII INC.]



art
HAWAII AIR AMBULANCE
Andrew Kluger, chairman and CEO of Hawaii Air Ambulance, said his company has been recertified with the highest U.S. rating.



Aeromedical CEO brings
new life to care issues


Andrew Kluger

>> Position: Chairman and chief executive officer of Hawaii Air Ambulance, which he purchased in 1997


What are the main issues you will address in your new post as Western Region representative on the Association of Air Medical Services?

No. 1 is that it's really a newly constituted system where they've divided the United States into eight regions. My representation is Guam, Hawaii and other western states, including Alaska. It's no longer the representation of a state. It now becomes a region so there are regional issues rather than local issues to be dealt with. The second area of concern they're looking at now is the standardization of minimum standards of aeromedical care throughout the United States, which will be presented to Congress and the FAA in order to establish national standards of aeromedical care. No. 3, they want to make aeromedical providers an integral part of first responders under the new Department of Homeland Security, so it's a challenge to be able to develop the public and private sector and become integrated in such a plan. Then, fourthly, is the issue of infectious diseases. Since I'm a representative of the Pacific region, one of the issues becomes how do we deal with the lack of proper control over visitors and new immigrants who may be exposed to infectious diseases? What my representation does is give a little state like Hawaii a big voice in Washington.

What are the issues facing Hawaii regarding air medical services?

In terms of local issues, Hawaii Ambulance just got recertified through a very difficult credential process as a CAMTS (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems). It's the commission that grants the highest rating to any aeromedical company meeting the nation's top aeromedical standards. We're the only company in Hawaii that meets those standards and we're one of 48 companies nationwide in the United States of about 700 aeromedically recognized firms.

How many planes and staff do you have?

Our headquarters are in Honolulu at the airport. We own and operate five Cessna 414A fixed-wing aircraft that are medically equipped. We operate out of three bases -- Honolulu, Maui and Hilo. We then fly to 10 different airfields in all the islands and our primary responsibility is to bring neighbor island residents to Honolulu for tertiary medical care. Tertiary medical care is for critically ill patients needing advanced life support. We're a private company and have in excess of 100 employees. We receive no state subsidy. We've operated for 25 years and we've been involved in the saving of over 23,000 lives. We've had no deaths ever in our 25 years of flying. We fly with medically trained staff, whether it's physicians, nurses or paramedics, and the planes are configured with life ports (customer stretcher systems for aircraft) and ancillary equipment in order to be able to transport the patients safely, effectively and in as much comfort as possible.

Do you have any emergency helicopters?

Helicopters are primarily operated now by the fire department locally and on various islands. We basically do patients who are stabilized at the local hospital and then we transport them to Honolulu. Helicopters are used to pick up patients in an accident -- like on freeways and in rural areas that are hard for people to get to -- and take them to the local hospital. We transport them from the airfields in the various islands to Honolulu.

Are you capable of making trans-Pacific flights?

We do have two medical directors in Hawaii and our medical directors triage patients with local physicians to determine the care needed for each patient. We do approximately 2,300 intraisland transfers a year regardless of a person's ability to pay and we will then make any number of long-range flights that are necessary. We charter and configure either Lear 36 jets or Gulfstream or Astra jets from the mainland. We have just recently entered into an agreement where we have the use of a long-range jet based in Kona. Before, we had to charter from the mainland. Now, we have a jet in Kona that we operate to transport long-range patients. Our first flight with that jet took place this last month from Honolulu to Minneapolis. The advantage of having a jet based in Kona is we save time by not having to wait for a mainland aircraft.

What service contracts do you have?

We have contracts with insurance companies. We have contracts with Medicare, with DHS (the Department of Health Services in Hawaii). We also transport tourists and their insurance pays or they pay. In terms of the percentage of patients on our flights, about 5 percent of our flights are indigent, meaning they fly for free; 15 percent are Medicaid (local health care for the poor), 30 percent are Medicare (the national health care program for retirees). So we lose money on 50 percent of our flights. The real key to this business is you hopefully have enough business in the private insurance world and with the private individuals to offset the losses that you suffer each year from the other part of the business.


Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to business@starbulletin.com.

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