Birmingham, Ala.-based Children’s Hospital took delivery last month of a 1995 Bell 206L4, the first helicopter in the state dedicated and equipped exclusively for the transport of sick infants and children. Before its arrival last month, the hospital’s Care Flight critical care transport team shared helicopter services with other area hospitals.
The in-flight transport team consists of a registered nurse and a respiratory therapist. The helicopter is equipped with an incubator and other ICU equipment, according to Jason Peterson, program coordinator of the Care Flight transport team. The 11 registered nurses–including Peterson–and seven respiratory therapists have backgrounds in pediatric intensive care, trauma, burn, emergency medicine, neonatal intensive care and nitric oxide therapy. They are supported by a staff of 18 pediatric and neonatal medical control physicians, according to the hospital.
Air medical services provider Omniflight Helicopters owns and operates the helicopter, which will be used to transport patients within a 150- to 175-mile radius of the hospital. “There are many rural cities that have minimal resources available,” Peterson said, adding that the dedicated helicopter will allow the team to transport 50 to 75 percent more children than it did last year. A spokeswoman for the hospital added, “We are, of course, very excited to be able to offer this dedicated service to the hundreds of young patients transported to our hospital every year for the specialized medical care they receive here.”
For patients who live farther than 175 miles from the hospital, the transport team will continue to use a Cessna Citation Bravo that is owned and operated by the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Peterson said Children’s Hospital began its critical care transport in 1983 and added fixed-wing and helicopter services in 2000. In August 2005, the critical care transport team evacuated neonatal patients from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina.