Once asked his opinion of the almost 200-mi island stretching from the towers of Manhattan to the wet salt marshes and massive summer homes that are the playgrounds of the rich and famous, Mark Twain is said to have sighed and said, “Well, it certainly is a long island.” So long that following months of wrangling by Long Island aeromed and EMS agencies, local lawmakers have decided to permanently extend aeromedical rescue helicopter service to the island’s distant east end.
As approved, the measure will base an aeromedical helicopter at Francis Gabreski Airport outside the posh village of Westhampton for 16 hr a day, beginning this summer. Critically ill or injured east enders in need of helicopter evacuation will no longer have to wait the 20-min minimum time it took for the aeromed helicopter operated by Suffolk County and based at MacArthur Airport just outside Islip. The extended service is expected to cost an additional $146,000 as currently planned, with a later year-round 24/7 service costing some $829,000. All told the new service is expected to shave nearly 30 min for a trip from the extreme eastern Long Island to the region’s trauma center in Stony Brook.