Marco Bitran Shares the Importance of Free Medical Flights Provided by Volunteers
Free air transportation services provide an important supplement to the nation’s healthcare system. Services like Angel Flight and PALS allow patients to receive medical care in physically distanced locations when they would otherwise not afford transportation.
Marco Bitran, a volunteer pilot and real estate entrepreneur from Boston, MA, explains why these free services are crucial and how patients and fellow volunteers can sign up to participate in the programs.
Gaps in the Medical System
Specialized centers of medical care are not always evenly distributed throughout the country. Many patients with serious health conditions find that the best doctors to treat them are located significantly away from their homes. They are sometimes told that they should consider relocating to an area closer to their ideal medical professional.
However, many people suffering from serious health conditions cannot afford to move across the country, and their frail health prevents them from making such a significant effort. This situation represents a gap in our nation’s medical system.
Programs like Angel Flight and PALS can step in and help patients reach the highest quality medical treatment for their conditions. Flying patients to medical hubs like New York City, Boston, MA, and Los Angeles helps improve the treatment that these seriously ill people receive while extending their life expectancy and improving their daily quality of life.
Recent PALS Event — Great Maine Airshow
Marco Bitran helped host the PALS booth at the recent Great State of Maine Airshow in September, 2021. The goal was to recruit additional pilots and to inform patients of the PALS service. The Great State of Maine Airshow was a great success due to the involvement of PALS Pilots and their friends. PALS had 23 pilots leave information and the representatives met many people from the healthcare arena looking to help PALS in outreachto patients and medical facilities. As PALS wrote, “Thank you to Sree, Marco, Ken, John, Lori, Jeff and others.”
Volunteer PALS or Patient Airlift Services pilots have taken part in over 23,000 free flights for patients battling serious illnesses, wounded veterans, and other compassionate flights. The organization is dedicated to providing much-needed transportation services for people who would otherwise not afford them.
To qualify for a PALS flight, patients must have a compelling financial need. Pilots donate a great deal of their time and money to make these flights happen, and potential clients need to understand that they should use their financial resources to fly commercial or drive if at all possible.
Patients need to be medically stable for travel. They need to sit upright in a regular aircraft seat and board a plane with little or no assistance. Like Angel Flight, PALS uses small, non-pressurized aircraft to transport patients. The planes cannot hold stretchers and should not be considered air ambulances.
In addition to medical flights, PALS also offers compassionate flights. Disabled veterans have used the service to acquire service dogs. Flights are also available for people who need to accompany others who are getting medical treatment. The program also sometimes accepts young patients who want to attend a camp targeted to their illness.
Angel Flight is a national organization with many chapters across the country. The organization is non-profit and comprised of friends, volunteers, and pilots.
Angel Flight works because pilots donate their time and the use of their aircraft to transport patients. Without the compassion of pilots like Marco Bitran, the organization would not exist. Angel Flight never charges a fee to any patients. The expenses are shouldered by the pilots and by people who make charitable contributions to the organization.
To qualify for an Angel Flight, patients must be ambulatory and able to board a small aircraft. Patients need to understand that they will be riding in a small plane with no lavatories available. They may have time-sensitive but not emergency medical problems that need to be addressed quickly in a physically distant area.
Patients qualify for these flights when they have demonstrated medical and financial needs. The program does not fly patients who can afford to fly commercial to their destination city where medical treatment will be received.
Volunteering for Free Medical Flight Programs
Pilots with their aircraft are encouraged to volunteer for free medical flight programs like PALS and Angel Flight. These organizations are not the only ones that provide these services. There may be other services available in certain local areas. Without the generous support of pilots, the programs would not be able to operate. Costs are high for pilots and include landing fees, fuel, ramp fees, and other expenses.
Pilots must meet stringent training and experience standards to fly for PALS. Pilots generally take part in three to five flights per year.
Community Service is Rewarding
For pilots and helpers, a dedication to community service is personally satisfying. Seeing a patient’s hope restored when they can reach the medical care they need gives pilots a positive experience.
Faith in the Health Care System is Restored
When patients can receive free flights from organizations like PALS and Angel Flight, they can participate more fairly in the medical system. In many cases, lives could be saved or improved significantly through participation in these flights.
Marco Bitran understands that patients frequently cannot afford to fly or drive to receive medical care at a distance. Through his work with these charitable organizations, he puts in a significant amount of time and money to help patients access medical care. He encourages all qualified pilots to consider donating their time and funds to help patients access the medical care they need, no matter where it may be located. To learn more please visit: palservices.org or www.angelflightne.org.