Texas Co-op Boosts Access to Medical CareBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 11th, 2014
When a medical helicopter needed to land in the unincorporated town of Mullin, Texas, the only available spot was a school parking lot. The situation wasn’t much better in Gorman, where the only option was a park.
It’s a far different story today, thanks to a Texas electric cooperative. Now, both towns have dedicated helipads with roads to handle emergency vehicles, giving residents quicker access to hospitals and medical care.
“Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for our members, and the project was a good fit for us,” said Shirley Dukes, communications/public information specialist at Comanche Electric Cooperative in Comanche. “What better way to improve the quality of life than to help provide access to emergency care?”
The co-op donated $5,000 in Operation Round Up funds to build a concrete helipad in Mullin and $2,500 to Gorman, which had been raising money for one.
Comanche EC also helps members pay for air ambulance transport with a voluntary plan that involves a $5 addition to monthly electric bills. Dukes said the arrangement has been popular with members, because “sometimes insurance doesn’t cover ambulance costs.”
Using the school parking lot as a landing spot was a “mess and an unsafe situation,” said Bud West, the volunteer fire chief in Mullin, population 173. “Several times, the helicopter had to go somewhere else to land, either different vacant lots or on the highway.”
Now, the new helipad sits behind the fire department on land donated by the Central Texas Telephone Cooperative in Goldthwaite.
“We’re just a little community struggling to get by,” said a grateful West.
In Gorman, population 1,074, the helipad is still in the park, but in a better, more visible area, said Tacy Warren, city secretary. “We got it done and it all came together quite nicely.”