Batavia, NY - A medical service Western New York has come to count on is asking for your help.
A loss of grant money and a growing number of under-insured patients are putting a strain on Mercy Flight Western.
The air ambulance company has transported patients to and from area hospitals since 1981.
News 8's Tina Shively got a look at just how rural their territory can be, and therefore how important their service is.
Mercy Flight Western has 3 bases, and covers about 8 counties. They average about one flight a day.
After a few minutes in the air on this training flight an emergency call came in.
Outreach Coordinator Bill Schutt said "The phone rings and you go into a different mode than what we were in five minutes ago."
It was back to the airport, where our crew was quickly replaced by a medic and a field nurse.
The team left their Batavia base for a 12 minute flight to Eastern Niagara Hospital in Newfane.
They then took the patient to Strong Hospital in Rochester.
Altogether the flight took about 40 minutes.
By ambulance the trip between hospitals alone would've taken about 3 times as long.
The speedy response is so crucial to saving a patient, that Mercy Flight will not refuse treatment or transfer to anyone.
Schutt explained "They maybe dont have a way to make that payment for the bill so we forgive those charges."
Last fiscal year alone, the not-for-profit forgave over $700,000 dollars patients couldn't pay for.
Mercy Flight does get some grant money from the counties it serves, but in recent years, that money has dwindled.
Their latest fundraiser, called "Sponsor-a-Mission", asks donors to collect $842 dollars. That's the average cost of an uninsured or under-insured flight.
So far several dozen missions have been sponsored, but Mercy Flight says with the ever-increasing cost of fuel and health care, donors are also crucial.
To find out how you can help, click here.