An Ambulance In The Sky

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015

You've probably seen or heard the helicopter coming and going from the Doylestown Hospital campus. Read on to learn more about this critical service and the partnership that makes it possible.

Every minute matters when a patient is in need of life-saving care. The most critical patients are sometimes airlifted to facilities that have the specialized care they require. These patients are flown by Temple MedFlight, based on the Doylestown Hospital campus.

Temple University Hospital's air medical program operates in partnership with the AirMethods Corporation to provide 24/7 critical care transport service to Eastern Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Maryland.

The twin engine EC-135 helicopter and crew is available round-the-clock. The crew is based in an office trailer just steps away from the aircraft. A mechanic is either on scene or on call.

"We can be on the go about eight minutes after we get the call," said Christopher Ritter, BS, RN, CCRN-CMC, CFRN, NREMT/P. He is operations manager and clinical coordinator of the flight division for Temple MedFlight.

 

 

About 85 percent of the missions take patients to academic hospitals. While Doylestown Hospital cares for the vast majority of patients who arrive, the hospital is not a designated trauma center. Doylestown augments services for the community through affiliations with the best centers in the region to provide specialized care for certain critically ill or injured patients.

"Occasionally with admitted patients complications or necessary treatments for care are beyond the scope of a community hospital and require more sophisticated care that is offered at research or teaching hospitals. Having the helicopter at Doylestown Hospital is a benefit with transports to other institutions regardless if the patient is coming from the ER or from a nursing floor," said Robert Linkenheimer, DO, FACOEP, medical director of the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department.

"There is less delay and the service is readily available," said Dr. Linkenheimer.

Providing emergency or 9-1-1 coverage accounts for about 15 percent of Temple MedFlight's missions. The Doylestown helicopter covers most of Bucks County and parts of Montgomery County for 9-1-1 calls for vehicle accidents and other traumas.

A small percentage of flights are to procure an organ for donation and delivery to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The flight crew for each mission includes a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic. The clinicians aboard the flight are highly experienced in critical care and rapid transport methods. The helicopter at Doylestown Hospital is outfitted with all the medical equipment needed to take care of critically ill patients, including a ventilator and cardiac monitor.

"We provide the same level of care you'd get in a big Emergency Room or Intensive Care Unit," said Ritter.

When a patient needs to be transferred out of Doylestown Hospital, a communications center makes the call to activate the MedFlight crew. The medical crew uses a Temple ambulance stationed in front of the helicopter to retrieve the patient.

"We move the patient ourselves to limit the impact on staffing in Doylestown Hospital's ED," said Ritter.

The patient is carefully loaded onto the helicopter and the flight begins. The time between receiving the call and lifting off is less than 10 minutes. The helicopter completes more than 350 missions each year.

Just like planes, the helicopter is subject to FAA regulations.

"We cannot fly in ice and we do not fly in fog," said Ritter.

In the event of a powerful storm, the helicopter would relocate to a hangar at the Quakertown Airport to prevent damage. When this helicopter was constructed in 2005, it was valued at $3.8 million. It is outfitted with the latest technologies, including weather radar, satellite phone/tracking services and Terrain Awareness Warning System. The crew uses night vision goggles after dark.

Facts About Temple MedFlight:

  • The helicopter is able to fly 160 nautical miles, or as far north as Albany, New York, as far south as Maryland and west to State College, Pennsylvania.
  • In addition to the pilot's seat, the helicopter has seats for the nurse, paramedic and a family member of the patient.
  • The flight from Doylestown Hospital to Jefferson in Philadelphia is about 13 minutes.
  • The EC-135 T3 has a cruising speed of 157 mph.
  • The medical flight crew works either a 12-hour or 24-hour shift.
  • The pilot's shifts are generally 12-14 hours and are governed by FAA guidelines.

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