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New emergency helicopter in service; big benefits seen

When seconds and minutes count, a new trauma care helicopterwill prove even more helpful in getting appropriate treatment forpatients involved in accidents and other life-threateningsituations.

The University Medical Center’s new AirCare helicopter wasscheduled to go into service Friday following visits to hospitalsaround the state over the last few weeks. The $3 million, Bell 230,twin-turbine 700-horsepower helicopter stopped at King’s DaughtersMedical Center Thursday.

“Basically, it’s a flying ER,” said Todd Perry, flightparamedic, as KDMC staff and emergency personnel inspected thehelicopter. “We can do the same things they do in the ER on the wayback to the hospital.”

Casey Campbell, a KDMC paramedic who also works for UMC’sAirCare service, echoed Perry’s thoughts.

“There are no easy patients in there. This is the worst of theworst,” Campbell said. “That’s why it’s equipped the way itis.”

The helicopter features ventilators and a variety of monitorsfor keeping track of heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen in theblood and other vital signs. It also includes equipment forneonatal care, Perry said.

While UMC’s old helicopter could carry only one patient, the newcopter can carry two. Referring to a flight time chart, Perry saidthe new copter will cut flying time from Jackson to Brookhaven from25 minutes to 19 minutes.

“And we’ll be able to come in bad weather,” Perry said.

Over the last two years, Perry said 320 flights were missed dueto bad weather. Emergency officials expect to cut down on thenumber of missed flights with the new, more modern helicopter.

“We’re averaging 60-70 flights a month in good weather,” Perrysaid. “We’re hoping to pick seven to 10 flights a month.”

Brookhaven emergency officials said the average time fortransporting a patient to Jackson via ground ambulance is around 45minutes to an hour.

“This really is a combination of emergency medicine and criticalcare,” Campbell said about the new helicopter. “As good as we arein the ground ambulance, there are things in this that we can’ttouch.”

Thursday’s schedule also included stops at hospitals in McComb,Monticello and Ellisville.

“We’ve crisscrossed the state in the last five days,” Perrysaid.

KDMC officials were impressed with the flying emergency service,which is being funded through the state’s new trauma caresystem.

“We’re excited about it,” said Phillip Grady, KDMC administratorand chief executive officer. “It’s certainly going to be a benefitto the state’s trauma system.”

Jane Jones, KDMC emergency room nurse supervisor, said thefaster flight time and the copter’s ability to carry two patientswill be beneficial in dealing with emergency situations.

“That’s going to make a big difference,” Jones said.

According the hospital records, UMC’s emergency helicopter wasneeded in Brookhaven 37 times from 1999-2000. That was the mostrecent total available.

Jones said the faster flight time will force local hospitalpersonnel to be even faster as they prepare a patient fortransport.

“From our standpoint, we’re going to have to be moving,” Jonessaid.

As the copter arrived at KDMC Thursday, an area around thehelipad was cordoned off and visitors were kept beyond thebarrier.

Plant operations officials squinted and turned their backs inreaction to down force wind for the copter’s blades. A table insidean observation shed vibrated as the copter approached theground.

During landing for emergency transports, Grady said the hospitalhas a plan to ensure safety of citizens and vehicles. He indicatedlanding safety procedures would be sufficient with the newhelicopter.

“We didn’t see anything today that would cause us a concern withthat,” Grady said.