PHI Air Medical announces new technology for air-lifting patients to trauma centers

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

PHI Air Medical held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony in London with state of the art technology.

The flight crew said that they are thrilled to be the first in the state to be able to offer a new type of technology that allows them to fly in weather conditions that other helicopters cannot. The $4 million helicopter equipped with I.F.R., Instrument Flight Rules. This technology could mean time saved when transporting patients from rural areas in southeastern Kentucky to trauma centers at hospitals like St. Joseph’s, University of Kentucky or Central Baptist Hospitals trauma centers.

“We are able to actually fly in the clouds where the rest of helicopters in the state can't we're actually the only helicopter in the state of Kentucky that can fly through the clouds and actually land at the hospital directly,” said Pilot Mark Fojtek.

The flight crew said being able to use the I.F.R. technology can actually increase the survival rate of the patients that it transports because it helps them to better navigate when other aircrafts cannot.

“It cuts down on the cost for the patient, needing an ambulance ride from the airport, and it also cuts down on the time en route,” said Lead Pilot John Hillyer.

Certification requires extra training, but crew members said it is life saving for what paramedics call "the golden hour" for patients.

“Trauma centers want to get you to their bedside, to their o-r within an hour, it improves your survivability,” said Flight Nurse Brian Baker, CEN/CFRN.
“If you are not taking additional steps to get to the hospital, than it saves that time, that additional time that you could be waiting.”

PHI Air Medical has five stations in Morehead, Owenton, Paducah, Greenville and the one in London, where the I.F.R. technology is being used.

"When you're talking about a cardiac patient or a trauma patient, that is a significant amount of time and can significantly increase their outcome," said Flight Paramedic Reed Scearse, FP-C.

The crew said that people who live in rural areas who usually have to take an ambulance to a nearby airport, as well as an ambulance from the airport to the hospital can add around 40 minutes to the commute, thus critical moments can be saved for trauma patients.

The crew travels with one pilot, one flight nurse and one paramedic. The helicopter with I.F.R. also has one additional seat where parents are able to fly with children, which pilots said is not always common.

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