Matt Gore, Medical Art Group
Residents in Maury County, including the cities of Columbia, Mount Pleasant and surrounding counties, will soon have faster access to the region’s only Level-1 trauma center thanks to the decision by Vanderbilt University Medical Center to station an air ambulance helicopter at the Maury County Airport.
Officials hope to have the new helicopter program operating within the next week. An American Eurocopter BK117 twin-engine aircraft will be located at the Maury County Airport in Mount Pleasant along with a crew of two critical care nurses who are also licensed emergency medical technicians, a pilot and a mechanic.
The BK 117 is one of the safest helicopters in the industry. In the 20 years Vanderbilt has operated the LifeFlight program, more than 22,000 patients have been transported accident free.
The $2-plus million-dollar-project marks the fourth helicopter for Vanderbilt, which will improve response time to the South central quadrant of the state. Vanderbilt also has emergency helicopters stationed in Lebanon, Clarksville and Shelbyville. The move expands LifeFlight’s response area by 11,000 square miles.
“Maury Regional Hospital, including Maury Regional EMS, has had a long and positive work relationship with Vanderbilt LifeFlight,” said Darlene Baxter, associate administrator of Maury Regional Healthcare System. “Vanderbilt LifeFlight has always been responsive to the needs of the people in south central Tennessee.”
Baxter said the new helicopter base would reduce the response time to accidents and provide better patient care and access to a trauma center.
John Morris, M.D., medical director of Vanderbilt LifeFlight and professor of Surgery in the division of Trauma and Surgical Care, agreed, saying increased demand prompted the decision to look toward expanding.
“We have been flying three helicopters above capacity for the last year,” said Morris. “There was a lot of demand we were not able to meet using our existing resources.”
LifeFlight averages more than 2,000 flights per year serving the area within a 150-mile radius of Nashville and utilizes a dual critical care nurse-emergency medical technician care team. Nurses perform aggressive airway intervention including rapid sequence induction with oral intubation, nasal intubation, needle and surgical cricothyrotomy, needle chest decompression, chest tube placement, pericardiocentesis, central IV placement, blood transfusion with packed red blood cells carried on board, and transportation of patients requiring intra-aortic balloon pump assistance. The types of patients transported by LifeFlight include trauma, pediatric, cardiac, medical, surgical, obstetrical and neonatal. Vanderbilt is the only Level-1 trauma center in Middle Tennessee.