Trauma center helicopters make difference

Shands will now have 3 helicopters in NE Fla. region

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shands Jacksonville Medical Center's trauma center service is getting better.

The hospital recently struck a deal with a new flight company that will give it a new helicopter to help save lives.

When it comes to the most dire of medical emergencies, every second counts. Shands' TraumaOne helicopter travels at about 150 mph. Compare that to 70 or 75 mph by ground in an ambulance.

That's why doctors and nurses at the hospital say the changes to their helicopter service are so important.

"We can decrease the time from the scene to the trauma center if we can take a helicopter instead of an ambulance," said Wayne Marshall, of UF&Shands. "And that's where we can make the biggest difference."

Shands is partnering with Flagler Hospital and a helicopter company called Med-Trans. The new deal means three brand new helicopters in the area -- based in Lake City, Yulee and St. Augustine.

There used to be only two choppers that flew to Shands, one based at the hospital and the other in Lake City. But the hospital decided forming a triangle of care would save time and lives.

"The key is to have the resources you need in the community you need them in," Marshall said.

Medical workers say those in the city of Jacksonville usually don't need helicopter transports because ground ambulances can get people to the hospital just as fast. But the surrounding counties rely on this lifeline in the sky.

A flight from Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine to Shands on Jacksonville's Northside takes about 17 minutes, which experts say, considering the distance, is pretty fast. Those at Shands believe the new plan is already saving lives.

Barring bad weather and poor visibility, the crews are on standby 24/7, 365 days a year in case they are called. They say it's up to the firefighters and police on the ground to decide whether or not a helicopter is needed.