September 27, 2002

LifeFlight adds aircraft in Clarksville

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Lynn Matrisian observes Barbara Fingleton, research assistant professor, as she performs a mouse surgery in the lab. (photos by Dana Johnson)

LifeFlight adds aircraft in Clarksville

Residents in Clarksville and surrounding counties will have faster access to the region’s only Level 1 trauma center thanks to a joint decision by Gateway Medical Center and Vanderbilt Medical Center to station an air ambulance helicopter at Gateway.

The $2 million-plus project marks the third helicopter for Vanderbilt, which will improve response time to the Northwest quadrant of the state. Vanderbilt also has helicopters stationed in Nashville and in Shelbyville. The move expands LifeFlight’s catchment area by 11,000 square miles.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Vanderbilt,” said Randy Kelley, Gateway’s president and chief executive officer. “Their safety record is impeccable and their flight nurses have great experience in providing the type of critical care necessary in these emergencies. The service it will provide to the residents of Clarksville and surrounding counties is phenomenal.”

The American Eurocopter BK117 will be stationed just outside Gateway Medical Center’s emergency department’s helipad. The twin-engine aircraft is one of the safest in the industry. In the 17 years Vanderbilt has operated the LifeFlight program, more than 20,000 patients have been transported accident-free.

“They are the best at what they do,” Kelley said. “And we want the best for our community. It’s a win-win situation.”

LifeFlight averages more than 1,800 flights per year, serving a 150-mile radius area of Nashville and utilizing a nurse/nurse 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. Patients transported by LifeFlight include trauma, pediatric, cardiac, medical, surgical, obstetrical, and neonatal. Vanderbilt is the only Level 1 trauma center in Middle Tennessee.

Dr. John A. Morris Jr., medical director of LifeFlight and professor of Surgery in the division of Trauma and Surgical Care, said increased demand prompted the decision to look toward expanding.

“We have been flying two helicopters above capacity for the past two years,” said Morris. “There was a lot of demand we were not able to meet using our existing resources. Gateway has been great to work with.”

The helicopter expansion will also include an educational component for emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses and physicians. EMS Night Out, a program that is currently offered in Nashville and Columbia, will also be offered in Clarksville at Gateway Medical Center. The two-hour continuing medical education monthly program, taught by medical experts, offers continuing education and training.

“EMS Night Out is a valuable program we offer to the EMS and medical community,” Morris said. “We’re happy to be expanding the program so the medical professionals will have access to the most up-to-date training offered anywhere.”

Morris said the new helicopter service should be in place by Oct. 1.