MILAN — Having a Life Flight air ambulance stationed at the North Central EMS headquarters means patients needing to reach a level-one trauma center can do so within 30 minutes.
Previously, it took “considerably more” time, North Central Executive Director Don Ballah said. He explained it would take 18 minutes for a helicopter to get to the area, making the total trip to a trauma center between 45 minutes and an hour.
There are five Ohio facilities equipped with the highest level of trauma care — in Toledo, Cleveland and Akron.
North Central had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with an open house Jan. 4 for its hangar. Ground-breaking started in early October. Construction on the hangar was done in mid-December.
The primary service area for the Milan base is the eastern portion of Northwest Ohio, including Norwalk, Sandusky, Lorain, Oberlin, Vermilion, the Lake Erie islands and surrounding communities.
Pat Martin, the president of Fisher-Titus Medical Center, values a more rapid response time.
“The partnership between Life Flight, our hospitals and EMS agencies will enhance the delivery of life-saving care to our community members,” said Martin, also North Central’s CEO, in a prepared statement.
Life Flight Medical Director Dr. Chris Goliver has said all three area bases — in Clyde, Wauseon and Bluffton — are strategically located so patients needing advanced care will receive it quickly.
North Central uses Life Flight about 100 times each year.
“Since it’s been here (in Milan), we’ve used it about three times,” Ballah said. “That doesn’t seem to be a lot, but it’s a slow time (of year) for aircraft.”
So far, Fisher-Titus has requested Life Flight 10 times while other area hospitals and EMS agencies have made multiple additional requests.
The three-person crew in Milan is being housed in a building beside the hangar. The pilot, nurse and paramedic are St. Vincent employees who work rotating shifts.
“The crews are always rotating. There’s not one definite crew,” North Central spokeswoman Cynthia Gieger said.
Ballah believes it makes sense to have a 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 in October, when the plans for the Milan-based helicopter were pending. “We have considered it for the last couple years. The (call) volume has gone up and up.”
Life Flight has served 35 counties in Ohio and Southeastern Michigan for the last 28 years. The air ambulance service had 2,679 flights in 2006. Last year, there were about 2,600.
The trauma service uses three Augusta A109 Power helicopters and one Aerospatiale Dauphin, with a second designated as a permanent back-up. Each aircraft can hold two patients plus the three-person crew.
North Central shares its helicopter — which cost St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center $6 million — with the Sandusky County Regional Airport in Clyde.
“That aircraft is still only 10 minutes away,” Ballah said.