LifeFlight base coming to Milan

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

MILAN A St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center LifeFlight helicopter is getting a new home the North Central EMS headquarters in Milan.

"It most likely will be placed late December or early January," St. Vincent spokeswoman Sarah Benardski said. "We are in the midst of finalizing that right now. ... We're working with various vendors to leave an aircraft."

Don Ballah, North Central's executive director, believes it makes sense to have a LifeFlight helicopter based in Erie County instead of flying from a central base to various crash sites.

"It saves on flight time in the aircraft," he said. "We're about as far from a (level-one) trauma center as you can get."

The flight time from sites in Huron and Erie counties to St. Vincent in Toledo is between 15 and 20 minutes. There are five Ohio facilities equipped with the highest level of trauma care in Toledo, Cleveland and Akron.

Rick Shields, North Central's operations manager, said patients will able to be transported to a level-one trauma center within 30 minutes after a crash an improvement in response time.

Ground-breaking on a hangar behind the North Central headquarters started in early October. There also will be a landing pad.

Ballah said the building itself will arrive in November and will be erected by Dec. 1.

"That part is right on schedule," he added.

The three-person LifeFlight crew a pilot, nurse and paramedic will be housed in a separate, already existing building beside the hangar. They are St. Vincent employees who will work rotating shifts.

"All the crew out there will be local (residents)," Benardski said. "I think that's a positive."

LifeFlight uses three Augusta Power helicopters and three Dauphins. One of them is considered a "dedicated back-up" when one of the other four helicopters is not in service or a fifth is needed.

St. Vincent will buy the LifeFlight helicopter housed at North Central at a cost of $4.5 million.

"We have considered it for the last couple years. The (call) volume has gone up and up," Ballah said.

North Central uses LifeFlight about 100 times each year.

"That will probably increase with the availability," Ballah said.

LifeFlight had 2,679 flights in 2006. The air ambulance service has served 35 counties within Ohio and Southeastern Michigan for the last 28 years.

LifeFlight is dispatched at the request of regional hospitals, EMS agencies, physicians and fire and law enforcement agencies. It also transports patients between hospitals by physician request.

Besides the Toledo headquarters, LifeFlight has three other regional bases: the Sandusky County Regional Airport in Clyde; the Fulton County Airport in Wauseon; and the Bluffton Airport.

"It's kind of unique to have air transport in an area of ... this size," Ballah said.

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