HEMET – U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz visited the Air Methods air medical base May 9 in Hemet to discuss the important role of emergency air medical services in healthcare and rode along with the Air Methods’ Mercy Air flight crew for a tour of the area they serve, according to a press release from Ruiz’ office.
Ruiz represents California’s 36th District, which includes the entire Coachella Valley, as well as the cities of Banning, Beaumont, Blythe, Hemet and San Jacinto. He resides in Palm Desert.
While touring, Ruiz discussed his experience as an emergency room flight doctor and emergency room physician. He also stressed the importance of air medical services and ensuring Californians have access to critical healthcare services, highlighting the impact on rural areas and their limited access to healthcare, the press release said.
“As an emergency room physician, I know that every second matters, yet one in four Americans live more than an hour from a trauma center by ground ambulance, including many in my congressional district,” he said in the release. “Thanks to the critical services provided by Mercy Air to those living in rural areas or hikers stranded in the wilderness, more lives are saved every year.”
Mercy Air and Air Methods are partners in a national campaign committed to preserving access to emergency air medical services, called SOAR (Save Our Air Medical Resources), the press release stated. Since 1990 more than 22 percent of American hospitals have closed, with 100 of those closures directly impacting California, the group said. According to the press release, more than 8.1 million Californians now live more than an hour from a Level 1 or 2 Trauma Center if driven by ambulance.
The press release also said many air medical bases face closure due to high operating costs and drastically low reimbursement rates, putting local residents at risk. In the Riverside County region, more than 36 percent of patients transported are covered by Medicaid and more than 30 percent are covered by Medicare. The reimbursement rates under these programs fall dramatically below the true costs of providing service, resulting in disproportionately low reimbursement in the area, the release stated.
According to the press release, Dr. Ruiz currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He graduated from Harvard University where he earned his Medical Degree, as well as a Masters of Public Policy and a Masters of Public Health. In 2010, Dr. Ruiz started the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative, which brought together stakeholders from across the region to address the local healthcare crisis. He has also worked internationally in the medical community. Dr. Ruiz continued his work as an Emergency Room Doctor until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.