3 TraumaOne helos decrease travel times

Shands air ambulances now located in Yulee, St. Augustine, Lake City

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When it's a matter of life or death, TraumaOne medial transport helicopters often come to the rescue.

And now for those in Jacksonville's surrounding counties, help can arrive faster.

Shands Jacksonville Medical Center recently changed companies it contracts with for air ambulances and increased the contract from two helicopters in the area to three. The choppers used to be based in Jacksonville and Lake City but now fly out of Yulee, St. Augustine and Lake City, forming a triangle of care.

"By being here, based here, we can knock off 18 to 20 minutes," TraumaOne pilot John Barber said.

"The problem was that we were having to leave here, fly there, pick up the patient, fly back," TraumaOne manager Chad McIntyre said. "Now, we're already there. So we have a two- to three-minute response time versus a 15-20 minute response time."

McIntyre says traditional ambulances work best in most Jacksonville areas because they can get people to the hospital in little time. But the helicopters are most needed outside of the city, where driving may take too long.

When it comes to trauma helicopters, every second counts, and rescuers are saying that having more helicopters in more areas is sure to save lives.

"We know that we will be able to decrease morbidity and mortality," McIntosh said. "Time-sensitive cases such as stroke, heart attack and trauma, the most important thing is to get them to a facility that can manage their patients quickly."

Rescuers say the biggest perk of the new locations is the shorter response times, but another great part of the partnership is the fact that they have three brand new helicopters fitted with the most state-of-the-art medical equipment.

Shands has partnered with Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, where one of the helicopters is based, along with a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week crew.

"Even if it's one patient that doesn't die because we're providing this service, then it's a great thing for the county," said Guillermo Pierluisi, emergency services manager at Flagler Hospital.

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