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Elizabethtown, NC –   A large crowd gathered Thursday morning to celebrate a ribbon cutting for the new LifeLink Air Helicopter stationed at Bladen County Hospital. The local hospital is among North Carolina’s 21 critical access facilities. 

Officials say the helicopter is needed to ensure Bladen County provides the best possible care to patients whose health conditions warrant medical treatment at more advanced hospitals in the quickest way possible. 

Stephen Fife, Cape Fear Valley, and Bladen County Hospital President, welcomed the spectators to the event on the lawn in front of the new helicopter, an Airbus H-135. 

Michael Nagowski, Chief Executive Officer with Cape Fear Valley, exclaimed, “We are just out of our shoes excited about today!” 

According to healthcare officials, the helicopter will be staffed by a nurse, a paramedic, and a pilot 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Cape Fear Valley Health operates two aircraft that service Harnett and Scotland counties. This third helicopter will allow Cape Fear Valley to move eastward and help patients in Bladen County.

Fife said the aircraft exemplifies Cape Fear Valley Health’s commitment to investing in, supporting, and caring for Bladen County residents. Fife, Bladen County Manager Greg Martin, EMS Team Director David Howell, and other local stakeholders evaluated the need, benefits, and potential for community utilization of the helicopter before agreeing it was a good fit.

Through a partnership, Med-Trans provides the helicopter, the mechanic, the pilot, and the flight certificate, and Cape Fear Valley provides the clinical oversight, the crew, the facilities and medical supplies, including a defibrillator, a ventilator, IV infusion pumps, medications, and blood products.

Toby Carter, program director for LifeLink Air and Specialty Care, is also a previous Bladen County EMS employee. He said it means a lot to him to know the county’s EMS Department will now be supported with a helicopter – when needed – at accidents.

“We’ll be able to transport trauma patients to the trauma center, and I’m excited about adding the providers, the services and expanding the department,” Carter said. “Anytime we’re able to treat more patients and expand the services to better take care of our community partners, that’s a good thing and great to be part of.”

“For serious health conditions, we’re going to stabilize the patient as best we can and get them transferred to the closest hospital, and for us that’s Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville,” said Brian Langston, corporate director of patient logistics for Cape Fear Valley Health. “We believe it brings transport solutions or connectivity from our community hospital here in Elizabethtown to tertiary areas across the state and allows rapid transport to those patients and services that are not locally available.”

Before the ribbon was cut, Nagowski announced more exciting news. He explained that Bladen County is a rural community in that Cape Fear Valley provides outpatient and inpatient services to residents who would otherwise have to travel long distances for emergency care. There are 12 outpatient care clinics in Bladen County, and according to Nagowski, another clinic will be constructed soon in the area that will be specially equipped for medical students. 

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