Erlanger Health System officials announced on Tuesday that the Chattanooga-based health system plans to add a sixth LIFE FORCE helicopter to its fleet of air ambulances in August. The new LIFE FORCE air ambulance, operated by Med-Trans Corporation, will be based in Andrews, N.C. at the Western Carolina Regional Airport outside of Murphy, N.C. Erlanger officials also announced they have signed a Letter of Intent with Murphy Medical Center.
"We are extremely pleased that LIFE FORCE is now expanding 'critical care in the air' services even further into the western North Carolina region," said Kevin M.
Spiegel, FACHE, president and CEO of the Erlanger Health System. "Placement of this air ambulance in North Carolina is the result of working closely with surrounding hospitals, state and elected officials for several years. Their overwhelming support has enabled thousands of residents to have quicker access to the region’s trauma center when they need it most."
LIFE FORCE 6 is expected to begin accepting patient flights on Aug. 15, and the letter of intent is in response to a business relationship being discussed between Erlanger Health System and Murphy Medical Center. The due diligence process required by the letter of intent should take both organizations approximately 90 days to complete, with the goal of reaching a definitive agreement on a future relationship by September or October of this year.
"Erlanger Health System and Murphy Medical Center have signed an exclusive Letter of Intent to explore how our organizations can partner more closely to enhance and grow medical services already offered by Murphy Medical Center," said Robert M. Brooks, Erlanger executive VP and chief operating officer. "This Letter of Intent is the first step in the process of exploring what the best structure could be for both Murphy Medical Center and Erlanger Health System."
The addition of this air ambulance brings the LIFE FORCE fleet to a total of six helicopters - four dual-engine aircraft equipped with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and two single-engine aircraft that use visual flight rules, or VFR. In mountainous regions, aircraft not equipped with IFR can frequently get fogged in at their bases and are unable to respond to patient transport requests. With an IFR aircraft now based in that region, area residents will have quicker access to a higher level of care with increased safety, particularly when outside visual references are obscured due to weather conditions.
“Med-Trans Corporation is pleased to be able to support the Erlanger Health System in providing this criticalservice to the community” said Med-Trans President Rob Hamilton.
Erlanger's LIFE FORCE provides the medical team for the six air ambulances and Med Trans Corporation provides pilots and mechanics for the aeromedical service, and owns the aircraft. Med Trans equips the LIFE FORCE fleet with Airbus H135 helicopters and Bell 407 helicopters. The H135 model will be stationed at the Andrews base.
"Since 1988, LIFE FORCE has been bringing the hospital to the patient and this is something that communities have come to rely on," said Robbie Tester, Erlanger VP of Operations. "We are pleased to be able to expand that service further into the Western Carolina region to continue serving the residents, hospitals, and local EMS agencies. The IFR components certainly increase safety and efficiency for the crews as well as those living or visiting in that region,” he said.
LIFE FORCE is accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems and is nationally ranked as one of the highest performing air medical services in the country. LIFE FORCE is the only air ambulance program in the region that carries ultrasound, blood and plasma products and is credentialed by physicians at Erlanger to perform emergency surgical airway procedures while in-flight, LIFE FORCE also provides on-the-scene and in-flight critical care treatment such as trauma service, heart and stroke intervention, cutting edge pediatric care and high-risk labor services to the patients in the aircraft.