Air ambulance set to fly from West Point

A new emergency helicopter service is expected to quicken response times and help keep local patients in a local hospital.

Newport News -- A new air ambulance helicopter will begin ferrying critically injured or ill patients this summer from points across the Peninsula to Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News.

The medical center is teaming with LifeEvac of Virginia to base a helicopter in West Point, where it will respond 24-hours a day to calls across the region and cut the time that it takes to transfer critical patients to advanced care, said Robert Hamilton, the program manager for LifeEvac of Virginia.

The Peninsula, especially Middle Peninsula communities, have been underserved for years in terms of methods to quickly transport patients in dire condition to a trauma center, Hamilton said. "Folks in that area are waiting upward of 30 minutes for a helicopter," Hamilton said. "We're going to drop one in their backyard and cut the time by 20 minutes."

Sentara Nightingale, based at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, and another LifeEvac of Virginia helicopter, based in Dinwiddie County, have responded to this region to transport patients. But those helicopters usually take patients back to their respective base hospitals, rather than flying to the closer Riverside facility, Hamilton said.

Having a helicopter at the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport will mean patients who are picked up will more than likely be flown to Riverside, said Peter Glagola, a spokesman for the medical center.

"The goal is to bring them here," Glagola said, standing outside the medical center Thursday. Behind him, Riverside administrators and staff members inspected another LifeEvac of Virginia helicopter - this one from Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg - being showcased on the medical center's auxiliary helipad Thursday. Ten of them also joined a pilot for a test ride in the aircraft.

A pilot, nurse and paramedic occupy LifeEvac helicopters on medical calls. The roughly $4 million BK-117 helicopter based in West Point will have enough room for two patients, and it will hold $250,000 worth of equipment, including defibrillators, ventilators, balloon pumps and an external pacemaker, Hamilton said.

The West Point LifeEvac helicopter, dubbed "LifeEvac III" for the air ambulance service's third helicopter in Virginia, is scheduled to begin service this summer. Besides responding to crash scenes, the helicopter also will ferry patients from rural hospitals to Riverside Regional Medical Center for advanced treatment, including complex cardiac procedures. That way, patients won't risk losing critical time if their ambulance is stuck in traffic, said Dr. Gary Kavit, an emergency room physician at Riverside.

Published: May 19, 2006



 

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