07/19/2024
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By Roxana Ross

Southeastern Health staff are excited about the opening of a new AirLife North Carolina base at the Lumberton Rescue Squad. The new base means emergency and trauma patients who need to be airlifted will no longer have to wait for a helicopter to fly into Lumberton for transport, because one will be stationed in the city.

Air Life is a division of Air Methods, one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. Several emergency room and patient movement staff members recently visited the facility to get a look at the new helicopter and meet some of the AirLife staff.

“This gives quicker access for our critical patients to be flown out because it’s sitting right here,” said Southeastern Health Chief Nursing Officer Renae Taylor. “It’s a 30-minute flight from Duke. When you factor in calling over to get a flight sent, it’s probably a 40-minute savings. Comparatively, it’s going to take five minutes to get an ambulance over here from the hospital.”

Dr. Will McCammon, medical director of the emergency room at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, said this is fantastic news for patients.

“Now that Air Methods has selected this as one of their bases, we’re pleased to have them,” Dr. McCammon said. “We have a high acuity base of patients that come to the hospital, and this is an expedited transport for patients requiring critical interventions at other hospitals. Not having to coordinate with outside agencies because we now have a transport team within blocks of the hospital can make that timeframe much shorter to get the patients the services they need much faster.”

AirLife is in the process of installing a crew building and helicopter hangar next to the helipad at the 2391 N. Roberts Ave. location, which the company has staffed with four pilots, three flight nurses, three flight paramedics and two mechanics. The company began operations earlier this month with its Eurocopter EC135 helicopter, with staff initially sharing space in the Rescue Squad and a temporary camper.

Nestor “Rico” Rivera is one of the flight paramedics. Originally from Fayetteville, he now calls Lumberton home.

“We handle any flights for critical patients that need to be transported to a trauma center, and we also assist in inter-facility transports for specialty care, such as cardiac or stroke,” Rivera said.

One of the flight nurses, Morgan Britt, said she began her medical career with Southeastern Health, originally working in the emergency room as a nurse. The Bladenboro native was happy to see Chief Nursing Officer Taylor, who first hired her back then.

“It’s nice to be home doing this,” Britt said.

According to a company press release, the decision to open an Air Life base in Lumberton came “after an extensive review of the local area and its needs,” citing a figure of more than 85 million U.S. residents who live more than an hour drive from a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center. Lumberton falls in that category, with Duke University Medical Center, the closest trauma center, being two hours away by car. The AirLife base will also serve surrounding communities.

About Air Methods

Air Methods (www.airmethods.com) is the leading air medical service, delivering lifesaving care to more than 70,000 people every year. With nearly 40 years of air medical experience, Air Methods is the preferred partner for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services. United Rotorcraft is the Company’s products division specializing in the design and manufacture of aeromedical and aerospace technology. Air Methods’ fleet of owned, leased or maintained aircraft features more than 450 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

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