BONIFAY — Sacred Heart Health System’s emergency transport helicopter, AIRHeart, drew a lot of attention as it landed behind Los Rancheros Restaurant during the meeting of the Bonifay Kiwanis Club on Jan. 8.
Ron Mosley, director of regional transport service for Sacred Heart Health System, was present to talk about AIRHeart as well as give a tour of the helicopter.
“The AIRHeart Service went into operation on Nov. 1, 2001, in Walton County,” said Mosley. “In 2003 they asked the question, where else in the state of Florida was a helicopter needed and it was in this area of Marianna and Bonifay, one of the only areas in the state of Florida that wasn’t serviced by a helicopter. Because, not so much because of a business decision, Sacred Heart of Pensacola said ‘let’s put one in Marianna.’”
That helicopter service started in November of 2003, he said.
“When I came in to that service in 2003 I asked them ‘why? Why a business in Marianna?’” said Mosley. “The answer I got from Sacred Heart was that ‘it was the right thing to do.’ I have never, ever forgotten that.”
He said they transport an average of 900 patients per year between the aircraft in Crestview and the aircraft in Marianna. 60 percent of those calls are scene calls and 40 percent from inner facility, which is from smaller hospitals to hospitals that specialize in specific areas such as burn and trauma.
“We transport as far as Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Augusta, Ga., for burns and Gainesville,” said Mosley. “The aircraft is actually owned by Air Methods. They bought the program out in 2007 as a business decision and it has worked out very well. The reason why I said that is because spare parts are readily available because they are the largest provider of helicopters; they actually have more helicopters than the Coast Guard.”
He said that Air Methods is a company that is “easy to work with” and “they always have local representation.”
“You might find this funny but, in this area, during this time of year it is mostly medical calls; people with the flu or pneumonia and during the summer time it’s trauma,” said Mosley.
He said that if anyone didn’t believe that Interstate 10 was a mass producer of trauma patients then he would show them statistics that would prove otherwise.
“I’ve never figured out how someone could get on the interstate the wrong way and I’m sure the people who run into them can’t figure it out either,” said Mosley. “In the summer there’s drownings and the hotter it gets there’s more shootings, stabbings and fights; in the winter colds and heart attacks. We get a lot of visitors from up north and I don’t know what it is about the south but they decide to come down here and have a heart attack or stroke.”
Soon they will have a new, larger aircraft in Crestview.
“We actually have to turn some calls down due to weight restrictions, it seems we love biscuits and it creates a problem for the helicopter trying to transport them,” said Mosley. “We do have a new aircraft coming in that should be here in June and there will virtually be no weight limit for the new helicopter.”
This will also help when family requests to ride with the patient.
“There will be family members that want to ride with a patient and you see that a lot with children being transported,” said Mosley. “Sometimes when a parent is too distraught we can not allow them to ride for the safety of those on board because they might hinder the pilot.”
He said the helicopter is usually requested by the hospital or EMS and is often put on standby.
“This is where they prep the helicopter and fly out to the location just in case they are needed and they don’t loose time trying to decide,” said Mosley. “It’s better to be there and not needed than to be needed and not there.”
After Mosley was done speaking, members and visitors of the club was able to take a tour of the AIRHeart helicopter and talk with the visiting pilots.