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Eye doctors visiting patients by airplane

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - We all get to work via different modes of transportation, from a car, a train, or a bus. But how about via airplane?

That's exactly how some specialized doctors from Southwestern Eye Center get to some of their more remote offices across the state.

When you think of private planes you usually think of celebrities and how the rich and famous get around.

But for Dr. Anthony Debues, a retinal specialist at Southwestern Eye Center, this is just his ride to work.

"About 3-4 times a week we travel to remote locations in Arizona," said Dr. Anthony Debues.

The day FOX 10 caught up with Dr. Debues and his team they were heading to Yuma for a long day of seeing patients and performing surgeries.

Southwestern Eye Center has 24 offices and planes allow the specialists to see hundreds of patients a week at some of their more remote locations across the state.

"Here we're spread out enough that driving is impractical. It takes four hours to drive out to Yuma and back. That's a whole day, so flying makes sense.

"At any given moment there's a plane in the air somewhere with some of our doctors on it it seems like," said Shane Armstrong.

Armstrong is the Chief Operating Officer for the center.

"It just created an opportunity for patients to get exceptionally good care in their own communities without having to make the trek and endure the expense," he said.

The daily flights are not cheap. The center shells out nearly $1 million a year to fly the doctors out. But it's something they have been doing since the 1980's.

"Early on Dr. Bluth, our founder just said why don't I go out and see them, they had an office out there at Falcon Field, planes were close by, and they started traveling out and seeing patients," said Armstrong.

Suzanne Reckling from Yuma is a longtime patient. She appreciates having the doctors come right to her without having to worry about traveling to the valley.

"I live alone, and I have to have friends or someone when I'm having surgery. They have to bring me in and take me home," she said.

After seeing 40 patients and five intricate surgeries, Dr. Debues is on his way back to the valley.

"This is my routine," he said.

All in a days work for this doctor. "Jump on the plane and go to work," said Debues.
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