Cartersville-based Phoenix Air has be­come Ebola go-to com­pany

The Catoosa County News - - SPIRITUAL -

had this ex­plo­sion of ex­po­sures.”

Of the 20 brought back to the U.S., only one got se­ri­ously sick and was trans­ported to the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health in Bethesda, Mary­land.

“None of them ever de­vel­oped a full case of Ebola,” Thomp­son said.

The Phoenix Air Group also was called on to fly a Cuban doc­tor from Africa to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion med­i­cal fa­cil­ity in Geneva, Switzer­land.

Thomp­son said the Cuban gov­ern­ment con­tracted with the WHO to send 25 doc­tors to Africa. When one was ex­posed to Ebola, the WHO called the State Depart­ment and they called Phoenix. All of that oc­curred be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama re­vealed plans to re-es­tab­lish some re­la­tions with Cuba.

‘If it’s Ebola, it’s Phoenix Air’

Thomp­son said there are a num­ber of rea­sons why Ebola has not been in the news much since the first of the year.

“First, Africa has been flooded with med­i­cal peo­ple who are us­ing much bet­ter pro­to­cols,” he said. “They are able to iden­tify and iso­late cases quicker than they used to.”

An­other is due to what Thomp­son re­ferred to as an enor­mous cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion ef­fort.

He said that when some­one dies in Africa, there is gen­er­ally a lot of han­dling of the body by fam­ily mem­bers. Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als have been able to ex­plain how that hands-on re­spect for the dead is not such a good idea when Ebola is in­volved.

Not all of the Phoenix trans­ports have in­volved pa­tients.

“Some of the trips, we ac­tu­ally are car­ry­ing sci­en­tific equip­ment with live Ebola virus in it, to and from the CDC lab­o­ra­to­ries in Africa,” Thomp­son said. “In other words — if it’s Ebola, it’s Phoenix Air.”

So far, Phoenix Air has en­joyed a 100-per­cent suc­cess rate on its trips.

“That means none of our peo­ple have got­ten sick or ex­posed,” Thomp­son said.

That stan­dard extends from the flight crew to the main­te­nance crew that de­con­tam­i­nates the plane and in­cin­er­ates the pa­tient con­tain­ment unit af­ter ev­ery trip.

The State Depart­ment ar­ranges all the trans­ports, even if the vic­tim is af­fil­i­ated with a char­ity — such as the Sa­mar­i­tan’s Purse work­ers Dr. Keith Brantly and Nancy Write­bol, the first two pa­tients brought to Emory Hos­pi­tal in At­lanta. Phoenix sends its in­voices to the State Depart­ment, which in turn bills the third party.

Thomp­son de­clined to dis­cuss what Phoenix Air charges, but Sa­mar­i­tan’s Purse of­fi­cials pub­licly dis­closed that they paid ap­prox­i­mately $200,000 each for the Brantly and Write­bol trans­fers.

Those first trans­fers es­sen­tially es­tab­lished the stan­dard for ex­penses re­lated to the air am­bu­lance trips, Thomp­son said, adding that a sim­i­lar fee to­day would be “fairly ac­cu­rate.” Trips to other lo­ca­tions around the globe would vary on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Thomp­son said Phoenix Air’s profit mar­gin on the Ebola trips is no higher than on any other air am­bu­lance trip. The costs as­so­ci­ated with staffing and de­con­tam­i­na­tion are ex­ten­sive, he noted.

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